Revealed: FAI covered the cost of John Delaney's personal legal actions
- Taoiseach: Grassroots must not suffer
- Shane Ross exploring new funding for clubs
- Dire state of FAI’s books will be of huge concern to thousands of football clubs around the country which depend on the association for financial support
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has pledged to save grassroots football as fears grow over the potential impact on local clubs from the ongoing controversy surrounding the finances of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).
Speaking to the Sunday Independent last night, the Taoiseach said: “We’ll definitely try to find a way to ensure that grassroots, schoolboys and women’s football doesn’t suffer.”
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He added: “The women’s team is being funded directly through a mechanism that bypasses the FAI”.
Mr Varadkar’s intervention was supported by Minister for Sport Shane Ross who said he was “exploring” ways to support clubs which may be affected by the FAI’s financial problems.
“[The] Government is committed to helping the FAI return to good governance so that public confidence and government funding can be restored,” the minister told the Sunday Independent.
The minister said he had asked Sport Ireland to help the struggling football association after it was revealed the FAI has a staggering €55m debt following the exit of controversial chief executive John Delaney.
“In the meantime, I am looking at ways to fund programmes through alternative means,” Mr Ross said.
“Only this week, we announced €195,000 for the women’s national team to be paid through an intermediary.
“I am exploring other such options for funding. We also await details of the FAI refinancing plans which will help steady the ship,” he added.
Last Friday, the true scale of the FAI’s liabilities emerged along with details of Mr Delaney’s €462,000 exit package which he received when he stepped down in September.
The dire state of the association’s books will be of huge concern to thousands of football clubs around the country which depend on the FAI for financial support.
There are 2,700 football clubs across the country and around 180,000 registered football players.
The 2017 FAI annual report states that the association’s “development and operating grants were €2.3m — which shows our commitment to providing funding at all levels of the game”.
Speaking on RTE Radio One yesterday, football pundit Eamon Dunphy warned the collapse of the FAI’s finances will have a devastating impact on members of local clubs
“They do it because they love the game, they love their community and they provide for young people and imagine what the morale must be like,” he said.
Gerry Carroll, chairman of Galway-based club Knocknacarra FC, said that the club relies on the FAI to provide a professional development plan for the Galway side.
"If the funding isn't there to provide that plan, it will stall our coaching here or the standard of coaching here. I hope that it won't impact on us, but I expect that it will," he told RTE.
Separately, Siptu has demanded an urgent meeting with FAI management to address the concerns of the 200 staff who work for the organisation.
Meanwhile, senior fraud squad detectives and officials from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) are due to meet tomorrow to discuss the findings of an independent audit of the FAI's finances.
At the meeting, gardai will determine how and who will investigate concerns outlined in the audit by Northern Irish firm KOSI.
The ODCE has been investigating the football association since last March, and gardai are now seeking to determine whether the findings of the KOSI report may require that the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau set up a separate criminal investigation.
The Sunday Independent has learned that the KOSI report found the FAI covered the cost of Mr Delaney's personal legal actions.
Two sources confirmed Mr Delaney would also keep all damages he received from any legal actions he took against media organisations. The report found the former chief executive did not use any of the damages that he was awarded to cover the FAI's legal costs.
Last Friday, FAI executive lead Paul Cooke insisted the association was solvent and added that he was confident of reaching a refinancing deal on the organisation's €29m bank debts.
Mr Cooke said a "robust" business plan was being put into place and predicted that the association would break even by 2022 or 2023.
Mr Cooke also said suggestions the FAI could sell its stake in the Aviva Stadium were wide of the mark, though the association's debt on the stadium will now be subjected to a 15-year mortgage.
He said an exit package had been agreed with Mr Delaney in September amounting to €462,000. This was made up of a payment in lieu of notice of €90,000 and a contribution to his pension fund of €372,000.
Mr Cooke insisted that this was the "full and final" settlement.
"There is no ongoing liability, relationship, nothing. It has been paid. There is nothing else to be paid," Mr Cooke said.
The settlement, he said, arose out of two contracts given to Mr Delaney in 2014, one for €2m and one for €1m.
Mr Cooke said the first was a pension-type payment kicking in from 2021 and the other was a loyalty bonus "which kicked in immediately".
"This exposed us at the end of 2021 to a potential liability of €3m. This had not been reflected in the previous years' accounts," he said.