Thursday 23 January 2020

Shane Ross and Sport Ireland to appear before Oireachtas committee but FAI Board confirm non-attendance

16 December 2019; Following a meeting with Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross T.D., and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D., at Dáil Éireann are, from left, FAI board member Joseph O'Brien, FAI board member Richard Shakespeare, FAI board member Martin Heraghty, FAI board member David Moran, FAI lead executive Paul Cooke, and FAI board member John Finnegan. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
16 December 2019; Following a meeting with Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross T.D., and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin T.D., at Dáil Éireann are, from left, FAI board member Joseph O'Brien, FAI board member Richard Shakespeare, FAI board member Martin Heraghty, FAI board member David Moran, FAI lead executive Paul Cooke, and FAI board member John Finnegan. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Minister: Shane Ross will appear before the Oireachtas Committee for Sport. Picture: Collins

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Minister for Sport Shane Ross will appear before an Oireachtas committee on Wednesday morning to discuss issues in the FAI, it has been confirmed.

However, the FAI have declined their invitation to attend the 9.30am session of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport although Sport Ireland have confirmed they will accept their invite.

Kieran Mulvey, Chairman, John Treacy, Chief Executive and Director of Strategic Programmes Colm McGinty will make up the Sport Ireland delegation with their Communications Manager David Gash observing in the public gallery.

A letter from FAI Company Secretary Rea Walshe to the Joint Committee and seen by Independent.ie stated; "I confirm that we had an open and honest meeting at Leinster House yesterday with Ministers Ross and Griffin.

"As stressed after that meeting the immediate focus of the Board must be on the financial restructuring necessary to safeguard jobs, the FAI’s financial future and the appointment of an Independent Chairperson and three Independent Directors.

"At this moment in time, this requires the undivided attention of the Board of the Association and key management, it is for this reason that the Association is regretfully not in a position to appear before the Joint Committee, tomorrow Wednesday, December 18th.

"As soon as the measures outlined above are complete, the Board will welcome the opportunity to  appear before the Committee at a time that suits your members. The Board of the FAI thanks the Committee for its patience and understanding at this critical juncture for Irish football."

That decision was branded "an insult to every football fan in the country" by Sinn Féin sport spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien TD who added he was "deeply frustrated at the attitude of the FAI."

In an earlier statement, Fergus O'Dowd TD, chair of that Oireachtas committee, said "The Committee very much looks forward to Wednesday’s engagement with four parties with a big interest in governance and related matters with the FAI.

"The safeguarding of supports to grassroots players and clubs in communities across the country is the priority for the Committee. The restoration of this funding is essential."

Minister Ross had held a 90-minute meeting with FAI officials at Leinster House on Monday night. After those talks, Ross confirmed that the FAI had made an appeal for €10million in state funding for the body who have liabilities of €55m. Ross told RTE that there was no prospect of that level of funding being provided.

"It was very tense because the FAI are in a very grave and dark place," said Ross, who added that he plans to meet UEFA shortly to discuss the FAI's finances.

"They were looking for support from the government, which we were unable to give them, financial support in other words. We said we are not in the business of bailing out the FAI under any circumstances."

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