Tuesday 21 May 2019

Sinn Fein TD Imelda Munster explains why she asked if Sport Ireland have confidence in FAI Board

John Delaney and (inset) Imedla Munster
John Delaney and (inset) Imedla Munster

Harry Clarke

Sinn Fein TD, Imelda Munster, has explained why she asked Sport Ireland if they had confidence in the Board of the Football Association of Ireland.

During a four-hour hearing at the Dail yesterday, John Treacy led a three-man Sport Ireland delegation who were questioned over financial and corporate governance concerns at the FAI.

Mr Treacy revealed how the FAI only responded to Sport Ireland's request for clarity around a €100k 'bridging loan' former CEO John Delaney supplied to the FAI in a letter that was hand delivered hours before yesterday's hearing.

Sport Ireland is not happy with the timing or the contents of that letter. They also hinted strongly at dissatisfaction with the creation of a new Executive Vice President role within the FAI for Delaney after he stepped down as CEO.

Treacy stressed that Sport Ireland have reservations about the balance of power if Delaney retains strong influence.

Sinn Fein TD Imelda Munster asked Sport Ireland if they had confidence in the FAI Board and after being pressed three times, Mr Treacy said: "I am not going to say yes."

Speaking on RTE radio this morning, Deputy Munster explained why she asked the question.

"They didn't record it (The €100k 'bridging loan') in their accounts.

"On matters of governance, they changed the rules to allow long-serving members to have an additional four-year term without consulting Sport Ireland and this actually went against the code of governance because many of the members - seven of the 11 member board have served over 11 years and the recommended term limit is three terms of three years.

"On all of those issues it was important to establish whether Sport Ireland - the body that's tasked with sport funding and governance and oversight - had confidence in the FAI board."

Sport Ireland repeatedly insisted that it can only address if the FAI is allocating state funds - about five per cent of the association's total turnover - in the appropriate manner.

Deputy Munster argues this is not fully correct. 

"That's not fully correct because part of the terms and conditions for grant approval are that you have to notify Sport Ireland in writing without delay if there is any material deterioration in your financial position and in this instance the FAI board did not do that."

Sport Ireland yesterday stated that the FAI's response to queries on the 'bridging loan' was unsatisfactory. The letter which was hand delivered to Sport Ireland yesterday morning signed by FAI President Donal Conway, did not shed any light on the matter. The Abbotstown board said they would have to wait until they get the results of an external review they have commissioned from global auditing firm Mazars before doing so.

"Sport Ireland didn't accept that the FAI can't give the information before the review is complete," added Deputy Munster today.

"The questions are straight forward. You would imagine that if the bridging loan was because of the financial difficulties, as they've stated, that that would be clear enough cut and there would be no delay in furnishing that information."

Munster added that it would be "totally unsatisfactory" if the FAI say it cannot furnish that information until its own investigation is completed by Mazars but it is then up to Sport Ireland to take any action.

She did add that "it would paint the FAI board in a very, very bad light because they have had several weeks to bring forth that information and they haven't done".

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