Thursday 23 May 2019

FAI in crisis: €10m UEFA safety net on table

Financial support 'will ensure the continued viability' of association

Support: Fifa’s Bjorn Vassallo and FAI president Donal Conway after the meeting at Abbotstown yesterday. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Support: Fifa’s Bjorn Vassallo and FAI president Donal Conway after the meeting at Abbotstown yesterday. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

UEFA is prepared to give the FAI up to €10m to help the organisation through a financial crisis.

FAI Council members were told yesterday that European football's governing body has offered assurances that it will support its member in its hour of need.

No figures were given at the meeting, but it's understood that Uefa has undertaken to offer the necessary financial backing to ensure that the FAI stays solvent.

The football body has been engulfed in crisis since it emerged that ex-CEO John Delaney had given his employer a €100,000 bridging loan in 2017.

Six investigations are ongoing into affairs at the FAI, including a legal case taken by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and three audits into financial matters.

The cost of the various enquiries is a major concern and Siptu released a statement yesterday which said it was seeking an urgent meeting with Sport Minister Shane Ross as it believed 200 jobs were at risk.

"We have received information that the FAI is in an extremely precarious financial situation with a threat of the organisation becoming insolvent in only a matter of weeks," said Siptu's Denis Hynes.

The FAI released a statement which said it was "shocked and disappointed" by the comments from the trade union.

In the same missive, FAI president Donal Conway said that Uefa support "will ensure the continued viability of the FAI and there is no threat to FAI operations or FAI staff".

Sources have indicated that Uefa is prepared to function as a "safety net" for the FAI, and it is willing to provide up to €10m to help the cash-strapped association.

It has also offered personnel to support the under-pressure FAI team.

Representatives from Fifa also met the FAI yesterday and offered backing. Bjorn Vassallo, a director of Fifa Member Associations Europe, said: "Our objective is to safeguard the autonomy of the FAI."

Fifa will meet officials from Sport Ireland today. It is keen to ensure that the Governance Review Group, which is made up of FAI and Sport Ireland-appointed representatives, stays on the right side of rules which prevent government interference in football.

At the beginning of yesterday's FAI Council meeting, its first gathering since Mr Delaney was sidelined pending the outcome of reviews, it was confirmed that Paul Cooke had joined the sub-committee of the FAI board dealing with ongoing matters.

The former newspaper executive and qualified chartered accountant, a long-term critic of Mr Delaney, is the sole candidate to take over as honorary treasurer at July's AGM.

He was present at the council meeting, which he described as "constructive". The meeting was also addressed by Aidan Horan, the Sport Ireland-appointed chair of the Governance Review Group.

"I've been told that I'll get all the info that I need," said Mr Cooke, who confirmed Uefa would be providing support.

"There was a different atmosphere there and in fairness that's coming from Donal [Conway]. Everybody was allowed to ask questions."

St Patrick's Athletic's Anthony Delaney said attendees were informed that "if there are financial issues, then Uefa or Fifa are willing to fund them up to get them out of it".

The Leinster Senior League's Dave Moran described it as the most positive meeting since he joined the FAI Council, praising the contributions of Mr Conway and Mr Horan.

"Aidan said that everything going forward will be more up-front and more transparent. The governance will be much better," said Mr Moran.

Meeting sources told the Irish Independent the position of Mr Delaney was the "elephant in the room" with only a handful of indirect references to the 51-year-old.

It is believed that Kerry's John O'Regan stressed that good work by Mr Delaney during his tenure should not be forgotten. Other delegates asserted that the current board should all step down at the AGM.

Irish Independent

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