Thursday 23 January 2020

'Liquidation a possibility' as FAI expect losses of close to €4million for 2019

FAI President Donal Conway, left, and FAI lead executive Paul Cooke during the FAI Annual General Meeting at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
FAI President Donal Conway, left, and FAI lead executive Paul Cooke during the FAI Annual General Meeting at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

The reconvened annual general meeting of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) was held at Citywest, with questions on former chief executive John Delaney and the performance of auditors Deloitte dominating the narrative.

Outgoing FAI President Donal Conway admitted there are difficulties with the prospect of selling their share in Aviva Stadium to stave off liquidation.

UEFA, the European governing body, urged the association to take the emergency measure after assessing the unfolding financial meltdown in recent months.

The FAI and Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) are co-owners of the venue, which cost €411m to build in 2010, but the rugby federation have ruled out taking overall control.

It has been suggested that the government could be the last resort buyer, as the FAI have today admitted they require €18m to remain solvent.

"The government have a first charge but there are two shareholders involved," said Conway, due to resign on January 25.

"In the first instance, the conversation has to be happen between two stakeholders and see where it goes from there.

"There is not a refusal by the board to consider disposal of asset but it is not easily effected."

Feargal Brennan and John Legorburu from legal firm ByrneWallace were present at Citywest Hotel to rule whether certain questions could be asked by delegates.

This is due to potential concern over prejudicing ongoing investigations.

FAI financial controller Alex O'Connell said that expected losses for 2019 are between €3-4 million. The current liabilities are around €70m.

In attendance were 130 delegates, 104 of whom were eligible to vote.

Ursula Scully from the North Tipperary Schoolchildren's League (NTSFL) was elected to the board. She was proposed by the Schoolboys FAI (SFAI).

Stuart Gilhooly from the Players Football Association of Ireland (PFAI) queried the ramifications of Deloitte's refusal to confirm the FAI as a "going concern".

"I can't give a definitive answer to that but the situation is very serious," said executive lead Paul Cooke, who confirmed a cash injection of €18m is required.

"There is a possibility of liquidation if the stadium loan is called in."

Richard Howard and Niall Walsh from auditors Deloitte were present but provided scant details beyond a prepared statement they read out.

They had approved all yearly accounts up to 2017 but, on foot of revelations emerging in April lodged a H4 complaint under the Companies Act, accusing the FAI of need keeping proper records.

They have resigned as the FAI's auditors after 23 years, taking with them €500,000 in fees for the past two years.

Mr Howard, in the face of fierce questioning from the floor, contended that they were 'misled' by the FAI's directors when carrying out their duties. Government officials have requested that Deloitte themselves be investigated by their governing authority.

Conway, as the last surviving board member from the Delaney era, was requested by Derry City representative Denis Bradley to make a statement later today.

"The FAI should apologise to the Irish people for what’s gone on and appeal for patience," he said.

"That will have more of an influence on politicians than banging them on the head claiming they’re not doing their jobs."

At the conclusion of the meeting, Conway agreed to the plea.

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