Monday 11 November 2019

John Delaney's contract terms unknown to FAI President Conway

FAI president Donal Conway. Photo: Sportsfile
FAI president Donal Conway. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

FAI president Donal Conway was unaware of the terms of the lucrative contract signed by the Association's former chief executive, John Delaney, in 2014.

Delaney resigned from the FAI last month after a severance package worth more than €350,000 was agreed. The contract he signed five years ago included a €2m loyalty bonus clause if he stayed with the association until 2021.

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Conway, who has been a member of the FAI board since 2005, said only "anointed nominees" had a knowledge of contracts, including the terms of the ex-CEO's lucrative package.

"The board operated on the basis that there would be people given authority to negotiate with John Delaney," said Conway on Friday.

"Those persons went and I never had any role. I was never one of the anointed nominees to go discuss terms, contracts or whatever, with John Delaney. That was senior members of the board at that stage. They would have negotiated with John on the authority of the board.

"With the 2014 contract, those gentlemen came back to the board. There was no change in the headline figure which was his salary. Now, not knowing there was the addendum, we couldn't ask about them."

Conway said he was not presented with a copy of the contract, nor did he seek one. He was asked if this extended to other deals, such as the arrangement with senior team managers.

"The contracts were not put across the board table and scrutinised at the board table," he said. "The contracts were drafted and you'd get a report at the board table.

"The old culture was not sufficiently transparent, not sufficiently open, individuals who disagreed with certain people suffered for that, for asking questions, for voicing disagreements, there were consequences for them.

"That was a poor reflection on the board and a really bad culture. That culture has to fundamentally change. For a short period of time, if I can play a role in bringing that about, I will try to do that."

Conway confirmed that he intends to see out his current role on the interim board until next summer, although he says he would reconsider if he was specifically told he was the only remaining obstacle to the restoration of government funding, which has been suspended since April.

The FAI have conceded that a tough period lies ahead, with the delayed presentation of 2018 accounts set to confirm that the financial picture is far from healthy.

Conway said he regretted statements attributed to him when the controversy first broke at the FAI, in particular a statement on March 23 that announced Delaney's move to a new post as Executive Vice President. In the media release, Conway said that "John has transformed how we operate as an Association".

"I would regret that phrase, to be frank," he said on Friday. "Look, I worked with John for a number of years and saw what he was capable of doing. I saw some achievements which he may or may not get the credit for in the future.

"When you say transformative, it was referencing issues like moving from Merrion Square to here (Abbotstown), the (Aviva) Stadium and all that."

Conway was asked if Delaney was central to a culture of fear. "I didn't fear John. He had too much power, yes," he said. "Did it come down to fear in the sense if you were an employee or your life was going to be determined by the FAI and if you took the wrong stance, I think a person may be fearful of what the consequences might be."

Reports from KOSI and Mazars are due in November and early December while an investigation by the ODCE is ongoing.

A probe by the Revenue Commissioners into 'tax issues' has added to the difficulties. Auditors Deloitte filed a H4 complaint, which is notification that proper books of accounts were not kept. Vice president Paul Cooke, a qualified chartered accountant, says that the FAI will have to restate the numbers in their 2017 accounts. "Let's put it this way," he said, "If there was a surplus of X recorded for 2017, it will now be Y."

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