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Tuesday 15 October 2019

The dynamics of the board are now central to Dáil hearing


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Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

It seems that every new FAI statement in this extraordinary period for Irish football only succeeds in raising questions rather than answering them.

And a manic Monday of activity ahead of their big date in the Dáil tomorrow threw up the most intriguing of the lot.

The top line of the statement was that former CEO John Delaney will indeed be present and - as the Oireachtas committee requested - he will be joined by President Donal Conway, interim CEO Rea Walshe and long-serving board members Paraic Treanor and Eddie Murray for their trip to Government Buildings.

But with a lot of eyes monitoring FAI activity at the moment, every sentence matters. Every signature matters. Every word matters.

It was striking yesterday that Delaney's 'bridging loan' to his employer in 2017 was referred to as a 'payment' or 'issue' in the FAI's advance correspondence with TDs.

The reason that these details are being analysed is the remarkable admission made by Conway that 'recent comments made by the FAI did not accurately reflect the board's level of awareness of the existence of the €100,000 issue in 2017'.

To put it simply, the FAI president was casting doubt on previous FAI statements which had detailed the board's awareness of the 'bridging loan'.

We have learned that Conway sent a letter to Sport Ireland last Friday where he referenced FAI board concerns about press statements in relation to the €100,000 loan.

Remember, early FAI missives on this transaction said that the board was informed of all matters.

After a fortnight or so filled with press releases, the regular announcement of fresh internal or external reviews, and exasperated responses from Sport Ireland, we now appear to have confirmation that FAI board members have also been taken aback by aspects of this crisis.

Or the communication of it, anyway.

What has been noticeable is that FAI President Conway has suddenly come to the fore.

He put his name to yesterday's press release and co-signed a memo that was issued to FAI staff in the morning - interim CEO Walshe was named on that too.

Conway has been a member of the board for the duration of Delaney's tenure, but the CEO has essentially been the main spokesperson throughout this time.

We have heard very little from the other members of the board who - lest we forget - unanimously approved Delaney's switch to the new role of executive vice-president.

Indeed, we were also told yesterday that external experts Jonathan Hall and Associates had actually recommended that the FAI run those changes through around the date of an Irish match with Gibraltar.

That's worth talking about too.

Delaney has been the face of the FAI board for major announcements, but the dynamic of tomorrow's delegation will now be watched closely.

Irish Independent

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