By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Plans by the Football Association of Ireland to build a national soccer stadium were plunged into further controversy last weekend when it emerged that sales of premium seats and corporate boxes for the proposed ground were £10 million less than had been claimed by leading officials of the association.
Only 21, rather than 54 boxes, had been sold, while a total of 1,400 premium seats, not 3,100, had been agreed by the marketing company IMG. The figures that were presented to the FAI’s board of management came as a blow to the association’s chief executive, Bernard O’Byrne, who had insisted that IMG had been successful in marketing the stadium plan.
"Bernard O’Byrne now has some serious questions to answer," John Delaney, a member of the FAI board of management and one of the so-called Eircom Park’s fiercest critics, told the Sunday Times. "How long has he been aware of this information? Why wasn’t it made available to us six months ago when promised? Why were we told we had sold 33 more boxes and 1,700 more premium seats than we actually had?"
The proposed Eircom Park project, which has also run into planning difficulties at its west Dublin site, has been dogged by problems since it was first raised. A lack of exact detail regarding the stadium as well as revelations that O’Byrne stood to be paid a bonus of over £300,000 if the stadium was completed, has caused bitter divisions within the FAI.
Critics of the project want the FAI to enter into discussions with the government with a view to soccer becoming one of the anchor tenants at the proposed National Stadium, which is scheduled to be built in Dublin by 2005.
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"As an employee, another of Bernard O’Byrne’s jobs is to adhere to board resolutions and to furnish all material information when required," Delaney said. "Clearly he has not done so several occasions and, the more he continues to do so, the more untenable his position becomes."