Monday 16 September 2019

Daniel McDonnell: 'Forensic audit of finances now needed to win back public trust'


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Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Last Wednesday, Oireachtas Committee chair Fergus O'Dowd asked if a forensic audit of the FAI's finances was necessary.

President Donal Conway batted the question away three times, stating that reviews by Mazars and Grant Thornton -which were commissioned before the date in the Dáil - would be "thorough examinations" of the FAI.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, a shrewd questioner, was dissatisfied by the answers. He asked if the FAI would be paying the companies and creating the scoping documents. Conway said yes on both counts.

This is significant in light of fresh weekend revelations detailing the credit card expenses of ex-CEO and soon to be ex-FAI employee John Delaney.

There were also further examples of League of Ireland clubs facing frustrating delays in seeking prize money owed to them.

With Shane Ross belatedly talking tough, following on from pointed comments from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, it's clear that the FAI will have to go to proper lengths to rebuild trust.

It's no longer just about the €2.9m of annual grant funding through Sport Ireland which helps worthy football programmes around the country.

Significant projects earmarked for large sports capital funds are now vulnerable due to the FAI's governance issues. Ross has made that apparent by adopting a stronger tone.

This is a major problem for the FAI as a recent policy of the Delaney-led board was to speak about the importance of developing infrastructure around the country.

It was a defence when faced with complaints about the failure to increase prize money at League of Ireland level.

A centre of excellence at Glanmire in Cork has been discussed for some time. If that is jeopardised by failings in the area of finances, then it will colour the legacy of this FAI board forever. As it stands, it is already diminished.

There is a feeling within Irish football that nobody should be safe as part of the enquiry.

All of these issues happened under the watch of a decision-making body packed with individuals that have been around the scene for a long time. Ignorance of issues could be explained if they were all newcomers to the top table.

There is a school of thought growing that they should all step down pending the outcome of the various ongoing reviews.

It may not come to that, but the sub-committee headed up by Conway could make a noteworthy step towards restoring relations by admitting that calls for an independent forensic audit are now valid.

With pressure growing from all angles, they need to avoid the perception that they are doing little more than kicking balls to touch.

Irish Independent

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