Saturday 21 September 2019

Most of FAI board were in the dark on €100,000

Delaney refuses to answer TDs' questions about his loan in 2017

Defence: FAI interim chief executive Rea Walshe, president Donal Conway and executive vice president John Delaney arrive at Leinster House to give their side at the Oireachtas committee hearing. Photo: Frank McGrath
Defence: FAI interim chief executive Rea Walshe, president Donal Conway and executive vice president John Delaney arrive at Leinster House to give their side at the Oireachtas committee hearing. Photo: Frank McGrath
John Delaney pictured leaving Leinster House after the PAC hearing. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Catherine Murphy: The TD was ‘astonished’ by the loan. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Cormac McQuinn and Daniel McDonnell

Most of the members of the board of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) didn't know that former boss John Delaney provided the organisation with a €100,000 loan in 2017 for almost two years.

As controversy swirls around the embattled organisation, which has seen its public funding suspended by Sport Ireland, Mr Delaney gave an account of how the loan came about.

However, he refused to answer any questions from TDs about the transaction, the association's finances, or his time as chief executive citing "legal advice".

The Oireachtas Sport Committee heard that just three FAI board members, one of whom was Mr Delaney himself, were aware of the loan at the time it was extended in April 2017.

FAI president Donal Conway said the remainder of the board learned of it at a board meeting on March 4 this year.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said she was "absolutely astonished this is the way the FAI would have conducted business".

Mr Conway told TDs that Mr Delaney, who is now the FAI's executive vice president, provided the loan due to concern over a possible cash-flow issue in 2017. He said no contract or agreement was entered into, the loan was paid back in June 2017, and no interest was paid by the FAI.

Mr Conway said the FAI had embarked on a review of its procedures to ensure such a situation could not happen again.

The FAI's long-serving honorary treasurer Eddie Murray was one of the board members who was not aware of the €100,000 loan. He said he didn't feel undermined by that when pressed on his feelings by Fine Gael TD Noel Rock, but added: "I would have thought I possibly should have been informed about it."

Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy challenged Mr Conway on why, despite the lack of knowledge about the loan among most of the board, the FAI released a statement last month saying the board had been kept fully informed of the matter at all times.

TDs weren't told who signed off on the statement, only that it was issued by the communications department and Mr Conway didn't approve it.

Earlier, Mr Delaney said he was "truly saddened" that Sport Ireland had temporarily withdrawn its funding.

He said he was advised at an internal FAI finance meeting on April 25, 2017, that if all cheques and FAI bank transfers issued to third parties at that time were presented for payment, the FAI would have exceeded its €1.5m bank overdraft.

He said he expressed "serious concern" as to how the FAI could have arrived at this position, but as the matter was "pressing" he wrote a cheque for €100,000 from his personal account to assist the organisation. Mr Delaney said he accepted the overdraft limit issue arose on his watch and he regrets the "embarrassment" caused to the FAI.

He said he would fully assist the FAI in its engagement on the issue with Sport Ireland, consultancy firms Mazars and Grant Thornton, who are carrying out reviews, and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

However, he said that on legal advice he could not answer questions from TDs on the issue and could only engage with questions about his new role as executive vice president.

He was accused of behaving "disgracefully" by Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster for his refusal to answer questions. Mr Delaney said he noted her comments, but referred to his earlier statement.

The committee will meet with Sport Ireland again next week to discuss the FAI situation.

Irish Independent

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