Tuesday 21 May 2019

FAI say recent statements 'didn't accurately reflect Board's awareness of €100,000 issue'

Former chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland John Delaney (Niall Carson/PA)
Former chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland John Delaney (Niall Carson/PA)

Daniel McDonnell and Laura Larkin

THE FAI have indicated that John Delaney and senior board members will attend Wednesday's hearing in the Dail with the Oireachtas Committee on Sport.

But a fresh statement from Abbotstown has also stated that recent FAI press statements 'did not accurately reflect' the Board's level of awareness of Delaney's bridging loan to his employer in 2017.

The afternoon missive from FAI President Donal Conway - who has also been requested to appear on Wednesday - has added a fresh twist to the furore created by Delaney's €100,000 loan.

Oireachtas Committee chair Fergus O'Dowd, had requested that the FAI send Conway, Eddie Murray and Paraic Treanor along with Delaney and interim CEO Rea Walshe.

Murray is the Honorary Treasurer and Treanor is the Chair of the Legal and Corporate Affairs Committee.

Read more here: FAI's President's statement to Oireachtas Committee offers no extra clarity on circumstances surrounding €100k loan from John Delaney

The FAI had initially planned to send League of Ireland chief Fran Gavin, high performance director Ruud Dokter, business partnerships director Karen Campion and interim CEO Rea Walshe to accompany Delaney.

But this afternoon's statement from the FAI indicated that the 'requested' parties would attend.

Yet it also included the significant line that 'some recent comments made by the FAI did not accurately reflect the Board’s level of awareness of the existence of the €100,000 issue in 2017."

The FAI said this matter is being looked at by a board sub-committee which is believed to be headed up by Conway.

The Abbotstown statement acknowledges 'misgivings' raised by Sport Ireland at their Oireachtas Committee hearing last week.

It also added that professional services firm Grant Thornton have been brought in to 'conduct an internal review of the Association’s books, records and ledgers.'

Their work has kicked off in tandem with the external review commissioned from 'global auditing and consulting group Mazars.'

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock, who has been outspoken on the need for answers on a €100,000 loan Mr Delaney gave to the FAI, believes the confusion surrounding the Board's awareness of the bridging loan adds further confusion to the situation.

“I welcome the decision by the Board of the FAI to attend Wednesday’s Oireachtas Committee meeting. However, I am concerned by the statement released this evening by FAI President Donal Conway, which has added more confusion regarding the Board’s awareness of the €100,000 loan from Mr. Delaney to the FAI," he said.

“A statement from the FAI on March 18th noted that ‘The bridging loan was made in the best interests of the FAI…when it experienced a short-term cash flow issue. The Board of the FAI has been kept fully informed in relation to this matter at all times.’

“That's what they said at the time however their statement this evening completely contradicts this. The Board needs to be straight with both the Committee and the public on this matter. I look forward to what will hopefully be a productive meeting on Wednesday morning and I trust that the necessary questions will be answered in an honest and upfront manner."

Meanwhile, remarks prepared for an Oireachtas committee hearing by Conway offer no extra clarity on the circumstances around a loan given to the organisation by Delaney.

The 22-page statement – seen by Independent.ie - does not refer to what has been labelled a ‘bridging loan’ given to it by former CEO Delaney. Instead the 2017 transaction is referred to as a €100,000 “payment” and “issue”.

Mr Conway is to tell the committee that “sport is a very different business to others. The qualification stage process of football is unique. Financial fluctuations are the norm and cashflow is often irregular.”

He will point to the disappointment that followed the  failure of the men’s senior team to qualify for World Cup 2018 which had “a major impact on match attendance and, subsequently, cashflow.”

At the close of his remarks Mr Conway will also make an appeal for more funding for all sports.

He is expected to say: “there has been much work done by the FAI to create a more financially-sustainable organisation.”

“I hope by us emerging stronger and more transparent, it will help make the case to Government for more resources for all sports.”

A review by external expert Jonathan Hall which looked at governance in the organisation and ultimately recommended that Mr Delaney be moved to the new role of executive vice president has also been provided to TDs ahead of the hearing.

Mr Conway’s opening statement notes that the appointment of Mr Delaney to that role will be “to the benefit of Irish football”.

The statement appears to concede that the FAI was not compliant with the terms and conditions of its grant funding in 2017.

Mr Conway's statement says the organisation acknowledges "certain circumstances arose in April 2017 which were not reported to Sport Ireland".

"We will work with Sport Ireland in order to establish a process to ensure the FAI are, in future, fully compliant [with a clause on further reporting of deterioration in finances]," the statement says.

The full FAI statement is below

"Statement from FAI President Donal Conway

The Football Association of Ireland has advised its attendance list for Wednesday’s meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport.

All requested members of the FAI are included on the list. The Association notes comments made by Sport Ireland and the Oireachtas Committee and acknowledges their concerns. 

Further, the Association recognises and shares the desire for the matters to be addressed as soon as possible, with due regard to the different ongoing processes. The Board acknowledges the misgivings raised by Sport Ireland and the Oireachtas Committee last week and is also cognisant of the concerns of the Football Family and all stakeholders.

The Board is seeking to fully address all concerns in a determined and transparent manner and many steps are being taken to do so and to establish the requisite detail for Sport Ireland and the Oireachtas Committee. As well as the Board establishing a sub-committee to lead the work, the global auditing and consulting group Mazars has been commissioned to conduct an independent and in-depth external review of matters.

The Association's advisors are working with Mazars to finalize the terms of reference for the review so work can begin. The Board has also requested that this review be completed as soon as possible.

Pending the review by Mazars, the Association has separately and urgently engaged Grant Thornton to conduct an internal review of the Association’s books, records and ledgers. Grant Thornton are on site at FAI HQ since Tuesday, April 2.

I regret that we were not in a position to assist Sport Ireland with answers to its questions before it attended the Committee last Wednesday. The FAI is engaging with Sport Ireland and communicated at a meeting with Sport Ireland on Friday evening that no disrespect was intended by the lateness of the letter of the 2nd of April or its brief contents. I accept more information would have assisted Sport Ireland and the Committee and I regret that it could not be provided before their meeting.

The Association has advised Sport Ireland that we are moving as fast as we can, being mindful of the complexity involved and the need to ensure that all statements we make are accurate and processes are fair and robust.  We also advised that some recent comments made by the FAI did not accurately reflect the Board’s level of awareness of the existence of the €100,000 issue in 2017. This matter is being considered by the Board sub-committee.

The steps outlined are taking time. Meanwhile, the Association has offered to meet Sport Ireland’s audit staff and, with the assistance of Grant Thornton, to go through the relevant accounts to assure Sport Ireland that all Government funding has been properly spent since the last Sport Ireland audit of the FAI.

The FAI has also been in correspondence with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and remains available to assist in dealing with its particular inquiries.

I look forward now to engaging with Committee members on Wednesday as we seek to address all issues raised."

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