Tuesday 18 June 2019

'FAI board should treat committee with respect and attend next week' - Sport Ireland CEO

Sport Ireland CEO indicates lost confidence in board over Delaney issue

Embattled John Delaney and (inset) John Treacy and Kieran Mulvey arrive at Oireachtas hearing
Embattled John Delaney and (inset) John Treacy and Kieran Mulvey arrive at Oireachtas hearing
Questions: John Treacy and Kieran Mulvey of Sport Ireland at Leinster House. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy says he would be 'shocked' if FAI board members turned down a request to appear in front of the Oireachtas Committee on Sport.

Mr Treacy was speaking after a four-hour appearance in front of the same body at the Dáil, where he indicated that he had lost confidence in the board of Irish football's governing body.

It follows the FAI's handling of queries about John Delaney's €100,000 bridging loan to his employer.

Committee chair Fergus O'Dowd said afterwards that they have asked that Mr Delaney is accompanied by long-serving FAI board members Donal Conway, Eddie Murray, Paraic Treanor and interim CEO Rea Walshe.

He indicated that the FAI was putting forward 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 says the FAI must accede to the committee's request. "This committee and the Dáil are elected by the people of Ireland," he said.

"It should be treated with respect. They have been invited to a hearing and they should be here. No question."

Former Olympic silver medallist Mr Treacy described Sport Ireland's appearance in front of the committee as "not a good day for sport".

He was grilled on Sport Ireland's relationship with the FAI and suggested they had concerns about the creation of a new executive vice-president role for Mr Delaney.

Mr Treacy said that Sport Ireland has reservations about the balance of power with a new CEO due to be appointed. "There can only be one chief executive," he said.

Mr Treacy and Sport Ireland chairperson Kieran Mulvey detailed how the FAI had contacted them yesterday morning in response to the search for the reasons behind the April 2017 loan.

The FAI said it would have to wait on the findings of an external review from global auditing firm Mazars. Sport Ireland will write back to say that's unacceptable.

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

When pressed by Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster on whether he retained confidence in the board of the FAI, Mr Treacy hesitated and replied: "Well I'm not saying 'yes'."

He said that Sport Ireland would wait until the FAI's next reply before deciding a plan, and admitted it would be reluctant to cut funding because it would hurt the grassroots.

However, that nuclear option was not ruled out, with Sport Ireland set to meet next Tuesday.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock - who has called for a cessation of funding due to the FAI's reply to Sport Ireland - asked for confirmation that the FAI had requested early drawdown of grants over the past four years.

Mr Treacy verified it was true. "We are aware there are cashflow issues within the FAI... I think that would be well known inside sport."

Committee participants on both sides of the table discussed restrictions that are in place when it comes to monitoring Abbotstown affairs.

"If you don't regulate the FAI then who does?" said People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger, who raised the issue of Mr Delaney's €360,000 CEO salary.

She asked if Mr Treacy found it strange that the CEO of the FAI would earn more than the Taoiseach. "Yeah, we did think it was strange," he said.

Mr Mulvey did state that the FAI makes 'extraordinary use' of annual €2.9m grant funding. Mr Treacy concluded by urging the committee to put all lingering questions to the FAI delegation.

Irish Independent

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