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Packie Bonner hopes cash-strapped FAI can win New Year’s sponsor

The FAI celebrates a somber three-year anniversary next month, marking the date when telecommunications company Three ended its sponsorship deal in December 2019.

FAI board member Packie Bonner hopes the cash-strapped FAI can finally find a successor in the new year.

Six months after FAI CEO Jonathan Hill told an AGM there was imminent news of a replacement, there has since been stony silence, as there has been for a much of the nearly three years since Three’s stunning departure.

Whispers of a new name, like Circle K, have been circulating recently and a deal was thought to be in place even last month but, despite realizing some sense of corporate stability after the eradication of a regime in disgrace, big business remained aloof.

“I know they’re working hard on it,” says Bonner. “It will come. I wouldn’t worry about that and there will be announcements in the new year as to where we are at and I think that will also help Stephen Kenny and help the whole thing get started again.

Bonner is closer to football than financial matters. more than a decade after being ousted from his role as technical director by the old regime led by John Delaney, he is once again trying to put the pieces back together.

“We’ve got some good things going on,” Bonner said at the Ladbrokes Bandwagon Bar, an exclusive World Cup viewing party.

“Marc Canham and John Morling are on the football side. We had a player path plan before, but no overall football plan. It was thrown away and it was all about the stadium and everything.

“But I’ve pushed that now to make sure football is front and center and we hope to complete that plan at the end of next year.

“And it will connect with staff across the country and bring us back to where we should have been because we missed so much. We got caught up in so many other things that shouldn’t have happened.

“But there are positive things happening now, but it’s going to take time. We manage the finances and if we can find sponsors, everything will be fine.

“I can’t tell people to trust us. But I hope the confidence is back.

Meanwhile, Stephen Hunt has sought to clarify his position after a controversial column in these pages three years ago that many deemed too sympathetic to former FAI CEO John Delaney.

“I took a stand at the time,” says the former Irish international who now runs his own sports agency.

“Some things happened that were wrong, but I argued with John before at the AGMs because I disagreed with him on how things were going.

“I don’t need to hide behind what I said. I will always say what I feel. Did the FAI make a mistake in its management? Yes, and many people have been injured for many years.

“But I can only go on face value. I regret that people thought I was by his side, I was not. But it doesn’t matter what I look like. That’s how I feel at some point.

“It’s working the right way now, business is done behind the scenes.

“And unlike the previous regime, they don’t have to justify themselves in public all the time.”

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