Thursday 17 October 2019

FAI's President's statement to Oireachtas Committee offers no extra clarity on circumstances surrounding €100k loan from John Delaney

FAI President Donal Conway. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
FAI President Donal Conway. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

OPENING remarks prepared for an Oireachtas committee hearing by the FAI’s president Donal Conway offers no extra clarity on the circumstances around a loan given to the organisation by former CEO John Delaney.

The 22-page statement – seen by - does not refer to what has been labelled a ‘bridging loan’ given to it by former CEO John Delaney. Instead the 2017 transaction is referred to as a €100,000 “payment” and “issue”.

FAI Chief Executive John Delaney and FAI President Donal Conway during the UEFA EURO2020 Qualifier Group D match between Gibraltar and Republic of Ireland at Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
FAI Chief Executive John Delaney and FAI President Donal Conway during the UEFA EURO2020 Qualifier Group D match between Gibraltar and Republic of Ireland at Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

In the statement Mr Conway also says the organisation has “advised Sport Ireland that recent public comments made by the FAI did not accurately reflect the Board’s level of awareness of the existence of the €100,000 payment to the Association in 2017”.

In previous press statements the FAI said “the board has been kept fully informed in relation to this matter at all times."

Mr Conway and a number of other senior FAI officials, including Mr Delaney, are due to appear before the Oireachtas committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport on Wednesday.

Read more here: FAI say recent statements 'didn't accurately reflect Board's awareness of €100,000 issue'

Executive Vice President John Delaney with FAI president Donal Conway (right) at the game against Gibraltar. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Executive Vice President John Delaney with FAI president Donal Conway (right) at the game against Gibraltar. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The meeting is due to examine governance issues but is expected to be largely dominated by questions over a €100,00 the FAI previously said was loaned to it to address cashflow issues.

The transaction was not disclosed in the accounts of the organisation and the organisation has been pressed for more information by Sport Ireland and by members of the committee.

In his statement, Mr Conway is also set to remind committee members of their remit, as well as the legal obligations and the need to respect the privacy and data protection rights of employees.

In the statement there is no further detail on the circumstances surrounding the €100,000 loan or the absence of a record of it in the financial statement of the organisation that year.

Read more here: 'It will be harder to play into the corner' - senators and TDs prepare to grill John Delaney

But Mr Conway will outline the steps taken by the FAI in response to the disclosure of the loan.

Two separate reviews have been put in train by the FAI following the emergence of detail about the transaction in the media.

A sub-committee made up of FAI board members has been established to work on the issues raised.

A Mazars review has been commissioned, and Grant Thornton have been on-site at the FAI since April 2 to carry out a review of the organisation's ledgers, books and records, Mr Conway will tell the committee.

“The involvement of Grant Thornton also allows the addressing of queries raised regarding the €100k issue from 2017 to ensure the response to queries is comprehensive and accurate,” Mr Conway’s statement reads.

The board “shares the desire for these matters to be addressed as soon as possible, with due regard to the different ongoing processes and legal requirements”, Mr Conway is to say.

Read more here: FAI asked to give more clarity on Delaney loan

One TD who sits on the committee, Fine Gael’s Noel Rock, has said that a press statement from the president which suggests the discrepancy in the FAI's recent comments -  which is also reflected in his submission to the committee raises more questions.

He said: "This opens up a clear line of questioning: what did the board know about the loan, when did they know it, how many of them knew about it, how did a loan take place without the board being aware of the terms of it and - crucially - when they unanimously approved the appointment of Mr  Delaney to the position of executive vice president, had they been appraised of the full facts with regard to this loan?"

Sport Ireland’s John Treacy previously said that the FAI has nots sufficiently explained the circumstances surrounding the 2017 loan.

Mr Treacy met with the committee last week and declined to state he had confidence in the board of the organisation.

Read more here: Daniel McDonnell: 'John Delaney looks to the long term but scale of the FAI crisis means uncertainty pervades'

Sport Ireland – who oversees the administration of State funding to the FAI – were not made aware of the loan or any material deterioration in the financial status of the FAI in 2017, something which the terms and conditions of its grant funding requires.

Mr Conway said he “regrets” that the FAI could not provide more help to Sport Ireland ahead of last week’s committee and that it is moving as fast as it can on matters.

He will also confirm that the organisation will work to ensure the FAI is fully compliant with the conditions attached to grant funding.

It has offered to meet with Sport Ireland auditors and their hired experts to assure the body that State funding has been appropriately spent.

Mr Conway is to tell the committee that “sport is a very different business to others. The qualification stage process of football is unique. Financial fluctuations are the norm and cashflow is often irregular.”

Read more here: FAI board silent on crisis before Oireachtas grilling as Fianna Fáil TD Kevin O'Keeffe attends Euro draw

He will point to the disappointment that followed the  failure of the men’s senior team to qualify for World Cup 2018 which had “a major impact on match attendance and, subsequently, cashflow.”

The organisation’s president will also outline the importance of State funding to its operation, especially at grassroots level.

Previously Mr Rock called for the suspension of funding to the FAI until there was clarity on all matters.

While acknowledging the need to build trust and the difficulties facing the organisation Mr Conway will also move to outline the recent successes of the FAI.

The statement appears to conceed that the FAI was not compliant with the terms and conditions of its grant funding in 2017.

Mr Conway's statement says the organisation acknowledges "certain circumstances arose in April 2017 which were not reported to Sport Ireland".

"We will work with Sport Ireland in order to establish a process to ensure the FAI are, in future, fully compliant [with a clause on futher reporting of deterioration in finances]," the statement says.

At the close of his remarks Mr Conway will also make an appeal for more funding for all sports.

He is expected to say: “there has been much work done by the FAI to create a more financially-sustainable organisation.

“I hope by us emerging stronger and more transparent, it will help make the case to Government for more resources for all sports.”

A review by external expert Jonathan Hall which looked at governance in the organisation and ultimately recommended that Mr Delaney be moved to the new role of executive vice president has also been provided to TDs ahead of the hearing.

Mr Conway’s opening statement notes that the appointment of Mr Delaney to that role will be “to the benefit of Irish football”.

In a letter to the committee last night Mr Treacy said Sport Ireland understands that the ODCE enquries into sport are "substantial" and that the FAI have said they are engaged with the corporate watchdog on them.

In a letter to Sport Ireland last Friday Mr Conway revealed that at a board meeting of the FAI last Wednesday concerns were raised about the press statements about the €100,000 loan.

The FAI and Sport Ireland met last Friday in what Mr Treacy described as a “constructive” meeting which he said it “shed more light” on processes underway in the FAI.

Sport Ireland are to be kept appraised of various elements of the reviews underway and the FAI will also discuss the composition of their new governance review group with Sport Ireland.

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