Sport Soccer

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Reviewing the reviews: Everything you need to know about the seven reports into FAI conduct and governance

Change coming to Abbotstown as new reports urge major overhauls

Many of the staffers toiling away in Abbotstown, the HQ of McCarthy’s employers in the FAI, won’t have the luxury of a long stint on the beach this summer, as this is one of the most intense periods in the Association’s history. (stock picture)
Many of the staffers toiling away in Abbotstown, the HQ of McCarthy’s employers in the FAI, won’t have the luxury of a long stint on the beach this summer, as this is one of the most intense periods in the Association’s history. (stock picture)

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Mick McCarthy joked at the start of this week that he was happy to be "going on holidays" with 10 points tucked away by the senior international team from their first four games of the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Many of the staffers toiling away in Abbotstown, the HQ of McCarthy's employers in the FAI, won't have the luxury of a long stint on the beach this summer, as this is one of the most intense periods in the Association's history.

There was a taste of that in the FAI offices yesterday morning. Noel Mooney, whose title is "General Manager for Football Services and Partnerships" but who is effectively the CEO, addressed staff at a breakfast meeting which was called to mark the fact that in a year's time (today, to be precise), a game at the Euro 2020 finals will be played in Dublin. "One year out" was the theme of his speech, intended to rouse spirits in Abbotstown.

With so much time being spent on the numerous probes into the FAI's financial and governance affairs, it's easy to forget that there is still work to be done in terms of football and planning. Euro 2020 is just one of those events on the horizon, though most of the work on that project is being handled by Declan Conroy, not an FAI staffer but a long-time consultant.

The first of the probes into the FAI has reached its initial stage, as a draft report by the Governance Review Group was presented to the FAI board this week, and a final report will be issued next Friday once the FAI's directors, UEFA, FIFA and Sport Ireland have had their say. And all this with a backdrop of hackers accessing the FAI's server only last week.

That report will seek the biggest overhaul in the association's 98-year history. Long seen as pale, male and stale, the report will call for a minimum of four females on a 12-person board, it will obliterate the current elective system where people can work their way through the world of blazerdom and earn a place on the FAI board no matter their level of experience or expertise, where someone could be given the post of honorary treasurer for a body with a €50m turnover and yet have no financial qualification.

But it will be up to the current membership of the FAI, the 61-strong Senior Council which feeds into the board of directors, to vote for change at their AGM next month, with no guarantee that a two-thirds majority will opt for it.

Within a month, reports commissioned by the FAI from Mazars and Grant Thornton should be concluded, but the most important probes of all, those of Kosi and the ODCE (Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement), will be more telling.

"What we are hearing is even more damaging than we had thought, and it will have serious legal consequences," said a senior source familiar with the ongoing probes.

There was also a familiar new face this week. On Tuesday, former Ireland manager Eoin Hand was in Limerick to attend the launch of the National Football Exhibition.

Hand played for Ireland 20 times and managed the team from 1980-'85, including the side which narrowly missed out on the 1982 World Cup finals. He also managed Limerick to a league title in 1980, so his presence at an FAI event in the city should not be a surprise.

But for a long spell Hand was persona non grata with the FAI, a consequence - he felt - of an unfair dismissal case he took against the FAI in 2013, having lost his position as career advice officer.

A "remember the day" piece in the match programme for a senior international some years ago was dropped as it contained an interview with Hand, and he said his access to complimentary match tickets, which he was entitled to as a former manager, was cut off.

He didn't name John Delaney but he said in a 2017 interview that his "horrible" finish with the FAI was "down to one man and the stance he took about not renewing a contract". The fact Hand is now invited to FAI events again hints at change. But few in the FAI are prepared for the avalanche that is to come when those reports emerge.

FAI: REVIEWING THE REVIEWS

KPMG

What’s going on? KPMG have been brought in to assist the FAI over the hacking which occurred last weekend. A team of forensic scientists from their cyber crime section is working with the FAI’s four-strong IT department to assess the damage done by the hacking which was carried out on a Bank Holiday weekend.

When will they be finished? No date is set but they should be on site for another week.

Who is footing the bill? This one is on the FAI’s account.

Likely outcome? New safety systems in the FAI’s IT department is a given but so far, the FAI’s stance is that no data has been exfiltrated and lost emails have been recovered.

KOSI

What’s going on? Belfast-based firm were appointed by Sport Ireland to look at how state funding was dealt with by the FAI – “To assess compliance of the FAI with respect to the Terms and Conditions set out by Sport Ireland in relation to the award of grants, between 2015-2018.” But they have a broader scope where they will have access to all financial records, contract employment details for FAI staff etc.

When will they be finished?A four-strong team from Kosi, headed by Cahal Crilly, have been looking at the FAI’s books but there is no time-frame for their final report.

Who is footing the bill? Sport Ireland have appointed Kosi so they will meet the costs associated with this probe.

Likely outcome? Sport Ireland will not restore their funding (€2.9m) to the FAI until they see the details of the Kosi report. If the Kosi staff get full access to everything they ask for, this report could be the most damaging of them all.

MAZARS

What’s going on? Appointed by the FAI a full 11 weeks ago, the FAI said Mazars were “commissioned to conduct an independent and in-depth external review of all matters”.

When will they be finished? Final report back to the FAI is due within three weeks, certainly before the FAI AGM on July 27.

Who is footing the bill? The FAI.

Likely outcome? Given that Mazars were appointed by, and are being paid by, the FAI, those beyond the walls of Abbotstown remain sceptical of just how hard-hitting any report will be. “Mazars report to the FAI, they don’t report to Sport Ireland,” was how Fergus O’Dowd put it back in April.

GRANT THORNTON

What’s going on? Grant Thornton were appointed by the FAI “to conduct an internal review of the Association’s books, records and ledgers”, Grant Thornton staff beginning work on site at the FAI on April 2.

When will they be finished? There will be a lot of crossover with the work done by Mazars so again, a final report is expected within three weeks.

Who is footing the bill? The FAI

Likely outcome? As with Mazars, because this probe was commissioned by the FAI, there are doubts about the full value of any probe but there is an agreement in place between the FAI and Sport Ireland since April that the reports from Mazars and Grant Thornton will be presented to Sport Ireland.

ODCE

What’s going on? The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement became involved when Deloitte, the FAI’s auditors, expressed concerns, issuing a H4 notice, a rare but potentially serious occurrence. The scope for the ODCE inquiry is limitless.

When will they be finished? This will be the longest of the investigations into the FAI’s affairs, potentially work ongoing for another 18 months.

Who is footing the bill? No cost to the FAI here but the taxpayer picks up the tab.

Likely outcome? The most serious of all the probes into how the FAI have managed their affairs for the last number of years with the potential for criminal charges.

OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE ON SPORT

What’s going on? Nothing at the moment as the FAI have not been before the Oireachtas committee since April but moves are afoot to bring the FAI back before the committee.

When will they be finished? No date set for a hearing but concerned TDs are keen to set a date for early or mid-July, to put questions to the FAI before that AGM on July 27.

Who is footing the bill? Taxpayer.

Likely outcome? The appearance by the FAI team before the Oireachtas committee, where John Delaney, a key part of that FAI delegation, refused to answer some questions on legal advice, is now much-derided as one of the worst-ever displays by any body before an Oireachtas committee so the FAI will need a different approach if summoned again.

FAI GOVERNANCE REVIEW GROUP

What’s going on? Acting on feedback from FAI staff, stakeholders inside the game and the general public, the GRG have this week presented a draft report, centred on a complete overhaul of the FAI’s structures, to the FAI, while the draft has also been sent to Sport Ireland, UEFA and FIFA. The GRG will meet again next Monday and compile a final report.

When will they be finished? A final report will be presented to the FAI board on Friday, though it’s not yet decided if the report will be made public.

Who is footing the bill? The FAI.

Likely outcome? Leaks from the draft report suggest a new-look FAI board of 12, with four independent directors and at least four female directors. That report and a proposal for a completely new structure to the FAI will be presented to the 61-strong FAI senior council, to be voted on at their AGM next month.

Irish Independent

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