Tuesday 17 September 2019

John Delaney's 'stonewalling' of Oireachtas committee was unacceptable - Tánaiste Simon Coveney

FAI executive vice-president John Delaney giving evidence (Oireachtas TV)
FAI executive vice-president John Delaney giving evidence (Oireachtas TV)

Ralph Riegel

TANAISTE Simon Coveney bluntly warned the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) as its board met that John Delaney's "stonewalling" over association finances before an Oireachtas committee was totally unacceptable.

Mr Coveney, speaking in Cork, stressed that the Government will continue to insist on full transparency in respect of all organisation finances where public funding is involved.

Mr Delaney repeatedly warned the Oireachtas sport committee last week that he would not answer questions about the circumstances of a €100,000 loan he made to the cash-strapped FAI in 2017.

Now, State and support funding to the FAI of over €15m is under threat as the row over financial transparency escalated.

Mr Coveney issued a stark message to the FAI as its board met.

"It is not acceptable for an organisation like the FAI to come to an Oireacthas committee and essentially stonewall them - that is what happened," he said.

"I think the FAI has to reflect on that and they will make decisions - but I hope they will be decisions that will allow the Government to be able to fund the FAI in the future to make sure that we can get this organisation back on track."

Mr Delaney, the former chief executive of the FAI, has apparently signalled to friends his imminent departure from the association in the wake of the row.

However, his departure has not been confirmed as yet.

Sport Minister Shane Ross bluntly warned the FAI it will not qualify for its share worth €15m in sports grants unless the issue of its finances is properly resolved.

Mr Coveney urged the FAI to listen to the clear message from Government.

"The message coming from Government but as well as from many other people is consistent - if you are going to run a national sporting body then you have to do that in a way that is transparent," he said.

"That (the FAI)  applies the corporate governance that you would expect of a sporting organisation of this scale and size."

"I think the (FAI) board will have to make their own decisions but I think the message from Government is very clear."

"We want to support soccer in Ireland both at an international level but, more importantly, at a club level and regional level."

"We want to work with the FAI. We want to put money into capital programmes and continue to support an organisation that is hugely important for sport across the country."

"But we have to insist on structured corporate governance and transparency and full accountability for how that money is spent."

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