The Indo busts the door down on the FAI's failed efforts to sell corporate boxes at the Aviva in today's paper. Selling ten-year tickets from between €12,000 to €32,000 seemed like a ridiculous idea a few years ago, even with third-party spin doctors ISG doing the shilling, and Daniel McDonnell today reveals that the FAI has only allocated 4,077 of its 10,400 Vantage Club tickets, and about a quarter of those tickets have been given to existing to 10-year ticket holders, including a lot of Ireland's broke banks. New shirt sponsor phone provider 3 Mobile are also reported to have received 2,000 tickets.
So how many people have actually paid for Vantage Club tickets? The scheme was dreamed up as a way for the FAI to pay off its €74m commitment to the new stadium. Certainly one of the oddest moments of the Ireland-Andorra match was the booing of the announcement of the attendance of around 40,000. It looked far less than that on the television.
The FAI gambled on corporate Ireland's interest in the Boys in Green. It's increasingly looking like a terrible bet.
Here's the Indo's 11 questions to the FAI, which Abbotstown say were all answered at their recent AGM:
1. Can the FAI provide an updated figure of sales of Vantage Club tickets for the new Aviva Stadium?
2. Last month (at the FAI AGM in Wexford) John Delaney said that 6,300 tickets had been sold/allocated 'including sponsorship commitments'. Can the FAI give the breakdown between sales and sponsorship commitments?
3. How many tickets have been sold at full price?
4. Can the FAI detail how much money, to date, they have accrued from the Vantage Club project from up-front payments, annual payments or direct debit payments?
5. Why did the FAI turn down an offer at the beginning of the project from ISG for all of the premium-level seats? Then FAI president David Blood said in May 2010: "At the time we made these decisions, we thought about them. It was well thought out, we feel."
6. Are the FAI confident that the existing 10-year ticket holders, who do not have to renew their seats until 2014 or 2016, will do so, given the current economic climate?
7. How many premium-level seats have been allocated to '3' mobile as part of their new sponsorship arrangement with the FAI?
8. Can the FAI confirm when the decision was made to start offering 10-year tickets at a discounted price and was this communicated to customers who originally bought tickets at full price?
9. Do the FAI believe they got the pricing of 10-year tickets wrong, compared to their counterparts in the IRFU?
10. Are the FAI covered if individuals who have signed up for Vantage Club seats cancel their tickets and refuse to make any further payments?
11. The FAI had a net bank debt of €38m at the end of 2009, and have subsequently paid a further €21.9m towards the completion of the Aviva Stadium. Have the FAI borrowed further in 2010?
The FAI have refuted the Indo's claims of a "ticket fiasco" and released the following statement:
The Football Association of Ireland today (September 9) reconfirmed, following its AGM last month, that sales of Vantage seats, including sponsor commitments have surpassed 6,300. At the recent match against Andorra the number of Vantage seats occupied on premium level was 6,900 and the overall attendance at the match against Andorra, the bottom seeds in the group, was third highest at all UEFA qualification matches taking place that day in Europe. Claims made in this morning's Irish Independent about a ticket fiasco are unfounded
The Irish Independent reported that Mr. David Blood, had stated that an offer was made by a third party to the FAI of €75m to bear all risk from the Vantage Sales Process. The Board of Management of the FAI this morning confirms categorically that the Board never rejected any such offer and David Blood acknowledged this to be the case.
This morning's Irish Independent also claimed that a number of Vantage seats have been cancelled. The Football Association of Ireland can confirm that these account for less than 100 seats in total. The Association has less than 4,000 seats available to sell on premium level and that the 6,300 figure reported at the AGM took account of this small number of cancellations.
The FAI also wishes to clarify that existing ten year ticket holders who purchased in 2004 and 2006 have paid for their ten year tickets in full and it is incorrect to claim that they have not paid for their tickets in the stadium.
The FAI has met all of its contributions to the €411m Aviva stadium which it jointly owns with the IRFU. In close consultation with its banking partners, the FAI has put in place detailed business plans that will see it debt free by 2020, while continuing to fund the development and growth of the sport at grassroots.
The Association's business plans, backed by record levels of turnover and a commercial portfolio which as trebled in the past five years will give the FAI a debt free status from 2020. These business plans have been agreed in close consultation with our banking partners who are comfortable with our seat sales and revenues.
(Photo from today's Irish Independent)