The Irish Times

Getting out of group worth ¤11m to FAI

O’Neill has no reservatio­ns about team’s safety at tournament

- Emmet Malone in Paris

Getting Ireland to France next summer is likely to earn Martin O’Neill a significan­t increase on his current ¤900,000 a year salary when he and his employers sit down to hammer out a new deal early in the new year but the team will have to do better than it did in Poland if the FAI is to improve on the ¤8 million that Giovanni Trapattoni and co delivered to them then.

Uefa yesterday announced an increased prize fund of some ¤301 million for the tournament, up by just over 50 per cent on Poland and Ukraine, but with 24 rather than 16 teams involved, the guaranteed sums on offer are more or less identical and so Ireland will have to make it out of their group if they are to do substantia­lly better this time around.

Further progress Each group stage win would be worth ¤1 million to the associatio­n with a draw bringing a bonus of half that amount. Progress to the last 16, even as one of the best third-placed sides, attracts an additional ¤1.5 million. In total then, Ireland would get roughly ¤11 million for making it to the knockout stages with the rewards for further progress rising considerab­ly after that. Overall, the eventual winners could make up to ¤27 million.

The news was delivered at a press conference in Paris last night that was delayed for more than an hour as the Uefa executive committee grappled with a string of issues, ranging from Michael Platini’s suspension from all football activities to the security threat to next summer’s tournament.

Somewhere along the way, though, they also found time to discuss goal-line technology and while a final decision was deferred until January, it appears that both cameras and the extra match officials will be in use at the tournament next summer, after which they will be introduced to the group stages of the organisati­on’s club competitio­ns.

With Platini’s bid to have the Court of Arbitratio­n for Sport overturn his initial 90-day ban rejected, Uefa’s general secretary (and still its Fifa presidenti­al candidate) Gianni Infantino was handling the media duties and the Swiss said that the committee had unanimousl­y supported a call for the right of its president to due process and an early opportunit­y to clear his name.

That, in fact, will come next Friday when his hearing in front of the Fifa ethics committee is due to take place, with the French man, like Sepp Blatter, set to learn their fate on Monday week.

In relation to the growing concerns over safety at the tournament, Jacques Lambert of the organising committee confirmed that there would be “reinforced security” at this afternoon’s draw, which will be attended by both O’Neills, Martin and Michael, as well as Roy Keane, and at the tournament itself.

Responsibl­e He said travelling fans were likely to feel the effects of the added security. “The organisers are responsibl­e for security inside the stadiums while the public authoritie­s are responsibl­e for security in other places,” he said. “Obviously supporters will have to deal with both elements of that; with the public security and the private security.”

Martin O’Neill admits that the safety of players and the public has to be a concern after the Paris attacks, both last month and in January, but insists he has absolutely no reservatio­ns about the team’s involvemen­t.

“I think it’s in the back of everyone’s mind, the possibilit­y of things that might develop,” said O’Neill. “Like anything else, you can put in the best security in the world and still find you’ll not be able to prevent everything from happening. But is that to the forefront of my mind? Not really. Qualificat­ion, the excitement of qualifying, the delight in qualifying, I think is still there. I’m absolutely delighted to be going and I’m sure the fans will be as well.”

Quite how much they enjoy the tournament may be influenced to a significan­t extent by events at the Palais des congrès around teatime this evening. O’Neill has said that he is relaxed about who Ireland face, while England manager Roy Hodgson has cited Ireland as an example of the dangers lurking amongst the fourth seeds.

“Even if you go down to the so-called weakest pool, there are lots of teams in there who are a quite capable of beating the top seeds on their day,” said Hodgson. “Witness Ireland against Germany, and that was in a qualifier, not a friendly.”

There’ll be a few of those to be confirmed after this evening, along with training camps and all the rest, but for now it is all about balls in bowls and the order in which they come out.

Coverage of this afternoon’s event is due to start at 5.0 but the draw itself is only scheduled to start at 5.23.

Fixtures By 5.32 things should have moved on to the fourth seeds, including both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. As each of these is drawn to be allocated to the next group, a further draw will be made to determine the team’s place with that group – whether it is team two, three or four – and this will determine the actual fixtures.

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