Enforcer asked FAI for records days after auditors queried accounts

Watchdog asks High Court to decide on football body’s ‘legally privileged’ records

The watchdog is investigating the FAI after it emerged   its chief executive John Delaney gave the association a €100,000 loan to cover a cash shortfall at the organisation in 2017

The watchdog is investigating the FAI after it emerged its chief executive John Delaney gave the association a €100,000 loan to cover a cash shortfall at the organisation in 2017

 

The State’s corporate law watchdog has asked the High Court to decide whether documents handed over by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) in a sealed envelope are legally protected from being accessed.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) wants the court to determine if certain materials sought from the FAI, and supplied earlier this week, are subject to “legal privilege”.

The watchdog asked the sports association for a range of records on Friday, April 19th – three days after it emerged that the FAI’s auditors Deloitte had told the Companies Registration Office that it had contravened two sections of the Companies Act, including a failure to keep proper books of account.

The regulator made the application to the court as it engages with Irish soccer’s governing body on “certain matters”, ODCE lawyer Claire O’Regan said in a sworn statement to the court.

Cash shortfall

The watchdog is investigating the FAI after it emerged that its chief executive John Delaney gave the association a €100,000 loan to cover a cash shortfall at the organisation in 2017.

Mr Delaney resigned as chief executive over concerns raised about the FAI’s finances and took up the role of executive vice president before later stepping aside from that position.

The controversy also led to the resignations of FAI’s honorary secretary Michael Cody and honorary treasurer Eddie Murray, two external reviews and the suspension of public funding from Sport Ireland.

In a brief hearing before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds at the High Court on Friday, lawyers for the ODCE said that its application relates to “potentially legally privileged material”.

The court was told that the watchdog issued a production order requiring the FAI under company law to hand over a wide range of books and documents, including the minutes of all meetings of the FAI board of directors and committees of the board dating from January 1st, 2016 to March 21st, 2019.

On Wednesday, the FAI handed over material to the ODCE including documents in an envelope marked “privileged material” that remains sealed.

Potential breaches

The ODCE stopped short of telling the court the reasons why it had asked the FAI to produce such a large volume of information.

The application was made under the Companies Act, 2014 that gives the director powers to issue the production order if he considers there are circumstances suggesting a possible offence among a list of 11 potential breaches of company law, including fraudulent conduct by a company and unlawful conduct by an officer of the company.

A spokesman for the FAI declined to comment on these potential offences. He said that the association was aware of the ODCE application, acknowledges that it is part of an ongoing process and continued to co-operate fully.

The ODCE, which told the FAI about its application in advance, wants a legally qualified person to examine the material and prepare a report for the court.

Ms Justice Reynolds adjourned the matter to Tuesday.