Sunday 18 August 2019

Shane Phelan: 'Inquiries dig deeper despite assurances'

John Delaney. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
John Delaney. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The controversy over the FAI's finances trundles on unabated.

The latest twist in the saga is that the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) has sought records from the football association but has been told some of these cannot be viewed by the watchdog as they are legally privileged.

The FAI is well within its rights to claim privilege over documents containing legal advice it has received.

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However, the matter is unlikely to help efforts to rebuild confidence in the FAI.

We already knew from Sport Ireland that "substantial" engagement was taking place between the ODCE and the FAI.

More details of this engagement have emerged as a result of the ODCE's application to the High Court for a determination on whether the documents are privileged or not.

We now know that notices have been served on the FAI for the handover of certain documents, including the minutes of board meetings and meetings of committees of the board. We also know the FAI has been co-operating, but a question mark remains over whether the ODCE can view all of the documentation.

It is clear the ODCE has escalated its involvement in the matter significantly in recent weeks.

FAI president Donal Conway said last month the failure to disclose a €100,000 "bridging loan" from then chief executive John Delaney to the association to ease cash-flow problems in 2017 arose from "an omission in the completion of our 2017 accounts".

He said the FAI had written to the ODCE's director Ian Drennan "notifying him appropriately" and giving assurances processes were being reviewed to ensure such omissions do not occur in future. But these assurances have not stopped the ODCE from progressing its inquiries.

The ODCE's scrutiny of the FAI's affairs is unlikely to stop at the €100,000 loan.

The fact only three members of the board, including Mr Delaney, knew about the transaction at the time is suggestive of much deeper problems at the association.

Irish Independent

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