Tuesday 22 October 2019

Loan raises serious questions on financial controls at FAI - Ross

New role: John Delaney and Emma English in the crowd during the match against Georgia. Photo: PA
New role: John Delaney and Emma English in the crowd during the match against Georgia. Photo: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Sports Minister Shane Ross has said a loan given by ex-FAI chief John Delaney to the organisation has "raised serious questions about governance and financial controls in the FAI".

In his first comments on the controversy, Mr Ross said he expects Sport Ireland to compile a report into why the FAI needed a €100,000 bridging loan from its own chief executive.

"I will publish [the report] without fear or favour to anybody," he told the Dáil.

However, Mr Ross refused to engage in any debate on the governance of the soccer association because he feared it might prejudice the work of Sport Ireland, which oversees the use of public funds by sporting bodies.

He was responding to questions from Fine Gael TD Noel Rock, who said people were "taken aback by the ongoing corporate governance and financial issues within the FAI".

"I strongly believe now is the time to set the course right, set the record straight, and commence an independent examination into both management and finances which further State funding will be contingent upon," Mr Rock said.

"That means investigating everything - from top to bottom - associated companies, boardroom expenses, everything," he said.

"On corporate governance in the FAI, it's clear that it is shambolic."

The Dublin North West TD questioned why senior management structures in the FAI were changed in recent weeks, including the creation of a new role for Mr Delaney.

"Does the minister believe that taxpayers' money is being deployed effectively, does the minister not believe that now is the time for an independent examination into FAI's corporate governance?

"It's time we look at where taxpayers' money is going as it's clear there are omissions in the information being supplied."

He said it was incredible a report could be produced and passed with a unanimous vote of the FAI board within six weeks. "This stinks," he said.

Mr Ross said nobody "has greater commitment to corporate governance in this House than I have, but I want to see a fair procedure".

But he added that it is "very important a body like Sport Ireland is left to do this work".

The minister said it would be "utterly wrong for me here to answer the questions you are asking".

Mr Rock said: "The board of the FAI is only existing on borrowed time."

Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland have been charged by Uefa after tennis balls were thrown onto the pitch during their Euro 2020 qualifier against Georgia.

Fans protesting over the Delaney controversy took advantage of a break in play during the first half of Tuesday night's 1-0 win at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin to vent their anger.

Irish Independent

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