Wednesday 21 August 2019

FAI asked to give more clarity on Delaney loan

Sport Ireland to brief minister and committee after writing to football body

John Delaney. Photo: PA
John Delaney. Photo: PA
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Sport Ireland remains unhappy with the lack of clarity the FAI has provided about former chief executive John Delaney's bridging loan to the association and has sought more information from it this weekend.

In a letter sent to the FAI, Sport Ireland has asked it to address a number of issues raised at an Oireachtas committee hearing last week about corporate governance and finances at the association.

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It was sent on foot of questions Sport Ireland previously put to the FAI but the association failed to address them.

Sport Ireland will update Sport Minister Shane Ross and the Oireachtas Sport Committee tomorrow about where it stands with the association.

Mr Delaney, who was appointed to the new role of FAI executive vice-president in the middle of a controversy surrounding a €100,000 loan that he gave the association in 2017, is expected to be part of a delegation due to be questioned by the committee on Wednesday.

Sport Ireland appeared before the committee last week and its chief executive, John Treacy, told members that he could not say he had confidence in the FAI board.

At the same meeting, Sport Ireland chairman Kieran Mulvey said the FAI had contacted it last Tuesday in response to a request for information about the April 2017 loan. The FAI told Sport Ireland it was waiting on the findings of an external review from global auditing firm Mazars before it could address the questions.

The FAI has asked Mazars to complete this review as soon as possible.

Sport Ireland said this was unacceptable and has contacted the FAI again in search of clarity. It is seeking further information on foot of last week's committee meeting before providing a further update to politicians.

The Sunday Independent understands the FAI received the follow-up letter this weekend.

Mr Treacy has said he was very disappointed by the FAI's original response.

"We were extremely disappointed. We are asking questions. We aren't getting answers. We think we should be able to get an answer quicker than that," he said.

Questions put to the FAI on multiple occasions by the Sunday Independent about Mr Delaney's bridging loan, salary and corporate governance at the association were acknowledged by a spokesman last week but have not been answered. Requests to interview Mr Delaney were not responded to.

The association is expected to come under further pressure in the coming days to explain the events that led to Mr Delaney giving his employer a loan two years ago.

Details of the loan came into the public domain only after Mr Delaney failed to secure a High Court injunction against the Sunday Times publishing a story about it,

Speaking on RTE yesterday, Mr Mulvey said Sport Ireland remained confident the €2.9m annual grant paid to the FAI was "properly accounted for and audited".

Sport Ireland did not want to become a regulatory authority, he said, but "we will not be found wanting" if a decision needs to be made about cutting its funding to the FAI.

"We must engage in a process, otherwise we will end up in courts of law over this and I don't want to be spending money that we need for sport in courts of law," Mr Mulvey added.

"If there are other corporate issues within the FAI that relate to the board or the organisation or individuals -that is for them to discuss with the Oireachtas committee.

"I said at the committee that there is company law involved here, there's the Office of Corporate Enforcement, the Charity Regulator - there is sufficient oversight in regard to obligations they have independent of us."

Committee chairman Fergus O'Dowd has asked for Mr Delaney to be accompanied by the association's interim chief executive, Rea Walshe, and long-serving board members Donal Conway, Paraic Treanor and Eddie Murray.

However, the FAI had proposed to send League of Ireland chief Fran Gavin, high performance director Ruud Dokter, business partnerships director Karen Campion and Ms Walshe to accompany Mr Delaney.

Mr Treacy said it was important the FAI agreed with the committee's request and respected that it would be appearing before public representatives "elected by the people of Ireland".

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock, who has made a complaint to the Office of Corporate Enforcement about the bridging loan, said he would be seeking answers from Mr Delaney at Wednesday's committee meeting.

"We need to make sure we have a real climate of corporate governance within sporting organisations in the same way we have, in recent years, recognised the need within NGOs and charities," Mr Rock said.

Sunday Independent

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