Thursday 23 May 2019

Aidan Fitzmaurice: '12 questions the FAI must answer, the public deserves better than ‘no comment’'

‘Stepping aside’: John Delaney leaving the Carlton Hotel on Monday. Photo: Steve Humphreys
‘Stepping aside’: John Delaney leaving the Carlton Hotel on Monday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Aidan Fitzmaurice

After the party comes the hangover. And for those eager for real change at the very heart of Irish football, the sound of champagne corks popping, when Minister for Sport Shane Ross revealed that the entire board had offered to step down and facilitate a new board, with the added punch of a demand from Ross that the FAI completely revamp their own structure, was potentially a hollow sound.

Despite the celebrations, here is what we know as of today:

- John Delaney is still on the payroll of the FAI and also holds his seat (and the €160,000-a-year salary that accompanies it) on the UEFA Executive Committee.

- The current board of the FAI, who politicians admit are in a state of disarray, remain in power.

- This board had the potential to remain in power until late July, a whopping 14 weeks away.

- The board have been asked to, but not told to, implement a complete overhaul of the FAI structure and the method in which the FAI elects its directors.

- This board could, if it chooses to, go ahead with the process of appointing a new CEO.

- The jobs of dozens of RDOs (Regional Development Officers) are in jeopardy as Sport Ireland confirmed that the next tranche of their annual €2.7million funding to the FAI will not be restored until wholesale changes are made, not only on the board of the FAI but the very structure and rule book of the association.

- Large-scale projects such as the development of Dalymount Park, new stadiums for Drogheda United and Finn Harps and the Cork centre of excellence in Glanmire are all effectively on hold, as no grant money will be sent the way of the FAI until Ross’s demands are met.

It’s a pivotal time in the history of the FAI. They have been at a crossroads before in terms of off-field activities, as recently as 1996 (The Night Of The Long Knives) and 2002 (the aftemath of Saipan and the Genesis report) but with this third crisis to hit the FAI in a short space of time, the future of the association has never been under such scrutiny.

The FAI board have offered to resign and allow the influx of a new board, they have promised to assist with the various reports into their financial affairs.

But as TD Ruth Coppinger said at Tuesday’s Oireachtas committee hearing: “A commitment from the FAI doesn’t mean an awful lot”.

A list of questions was submitted to the FAI media department yesterday, a request greeted with the expected “no comment” comment. These questions, and more, are on the lips of the public and deserve to be answered.

1. Can the FAI confirm, with any certainty, that no current board member will stand for re-election at its AGM or EGM?

2. When and how will the current FAI board decide on whether to call an EGM to elect a new board before the July 23rd AGM?

3. Monday’s resignations from the board left the board without an honorary secretary and honorary treasurer; how have the current eight-person board filled those roles, and will a new secretary/treasurer be appointed before an AGM/EGM?

4. The Jonathan Hall report said the FAI “hoped that the recruitment process (of a new CEO) can begin in April with a view to appointing the new Chief Executive in time for the FAI AGM in the summer”. Has this process been halted?

5. Did Deloitte (FAI auditors) contact the FAI with their concerns about incorrect accounting procedures before Deolitte contacted the CRO (Companies Registration Office?

6. Does the FAI feel that the position of Interim CEO Rea Walshe - who attended the Monday night meeting between the FAI and Sport Ireland where the FAI failed to inform Sport Ireland of the Deloitte/CRO issue - is tenable, given the failure of the FAI delegation to tell Sport Ireland?

7. Will John Delaney carry out any official duties when Ireland host the UEFA U17 European Championship finals next month? Have the FAI requested that Delaney does not attend games or play any official role at the games held in Ireland?

8. Have UEFA contacted the FAI to look for clarification on John Delaney’s current status within the FAI, and have they made any request for Delaney to play no official role in the U17 Euro finals?

9. At Tuesday’s Oireachtas committee meeting, Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh said, under privilege, that the shortfall in FAI funds which led to the €100,000 loan in 2017 proved that the FAI as a body were “insolvent.” Are the FAI concerned about the current state of their finances and is there the potential to become insolvent in the future?

10. What is the estimated cost of the reports/investigations into FAI affairs which have already been conducted, or are in the process of being conducted, by Jonathan Hall Associates, Mazars and Grant Thornton? And given that the financial problems of 2017 arose in April of that year, is the FAI in a position in April 2019 to meet the costs of those reports?

11. Last month, when John Delaney stepped down as CEO and took over the newly-created post of Executive Vice President, the FAI-sanctioned Jonathan Hall report stressed the importance of the Executive Vice President role. Given that John Delaney has “stepped aside” from the EVP role, who is currently fulfilling the duties of the EVP?

12. Given that John Delaney no longer has a position with the FAI, does the FAI body still support his membership of the UEFA Executive Committee?

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