independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

RTE defends Des Cahill in ban row as FAI threatens to sue

RTE bosses have rejected outright a complaint from the FAI about popular sports presenter Des Cahill.

In an escalating row, the Football Association of Ireland has banned all of its officials from being interviewed by Cahill over a radio discussion he chaired which questioned the manner in which the FAI was run.

It sent a letter of complaint to RTE following Cahill's remarks on the 'Saturday Sport' radio show two weeks ago.

And in a significant development, the FAI has indicated that it is now considering legal action on the matter.

However, RTE has issued a strongly worded reply in which it rejects claims that Cahill's handing of the discussion on the radio show two weeks ago was unprofessional.

Its letter states that the popular broadcaster's comments were "fair and balanced" and that RTE stands over his remarks.

The audio recording of the show has been taken down from the RTE website in a move a spokesperson insisted was in line with "best practice".

"That would be consistent with where there is a legal correspondence on-going around a programme," the spokesperson said.

Cahill's remarks were made during a discussion of the FAI's agm, which took place in Ennis, Co Clare on July 16.

The interview involved football pundits Roddy Collins and Damien Richardson. They discussed a number of issues including the €400,000 salary paid to FAI chief executive John Delaney in the context of the organisation's finances.

With bank borrowings of €50m, there are concerns about the FAI's ability to meet its commitment to the Aviva Stadium. Delaney has insisted that the FAI will be debt-free by 2020, a matter also discussed by the panel.

Cahill, pictured right, pointed out that, on a previous occasion, he had asked the CEO questions about the state of the FAI's finances, but was told by Delaney that he was only a GAA man.

In a lively debate with Collins and Richardson, Cahill maintained that the FAI's finances were a relevant subject for debate. During interviews with reporters earlier that same day, Delaney had been forced to defend his €400,000 salary and claimed that the football association's board was opposed to his decision to take a €50,000 cut on the €450,000 wage he was collecting two years previously. Delaney is currently in Brazil where the draw for the qualifying rounds of the 2014 World Cup is due to take place today.

A statement from the FAI yesterday insisted that its complaint against Cahill was not related to any salary matters.

"It relates to comments made about the association and company related matters.

"Since this is a legal issue in the hands of solicitors, we will not be making any further comment," the statement concluded.

A spokesman for the FAI refused to elaborate on the statement. He did confirm, however, the association was boycotting interviews with Cahill.

The ban does not extend to interviews conducted between other RTE presenters and the FAI. RTE has strongly defended Cahill. "He is one of the key figures in RTE Sport and he is a national figure on the sporting scene, so there is full confidence there and RTE is standing behind him," a spokesperson told the Irish Independent.

He added that Cahill would be presenting today's edition of 'Saturday Sport' alongside co-presenter Joanne Cantwell, as normal.

Interview

However, the spokesman was not able to say if a planned interview between Cahill and the FAI's U19 manager Paul Doolin would go ahead.

Doolin's team lost to Spain in the semi-final of the European Championships last night .

Earlier this week, RTE was informed by the FAI that the interview with Doolin would only be granted if Cahill was not asking the questions.

Irish Independent

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