FAI says its board will resign as auditors query financial accounts
‘The board is part of the problem’, Shane Ross tells Oireachtas Committee
The board of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) will resign within the next two months, and certainly no later than its annual general meeting in July.
As the FAI confirmed on Tuesday all board members will step down by the summer, two major investigations were underway into governance and finances in the FAI.
In addition, auditors Deloitte also disclosed it had filed a notice with the Companies Registration Office over its accounts not been kept properly and breaches of the Companies Acts. There are possible imprisonment and fine sanctions for some of the alleged breaches.
The board confirmed a restructuring plan would be brought to the FAI agm in July, or to an earlier egm, if necessary.
“At that point when new structure has been put in place the existing board will step down will step down in the best interests of football,” said its president Dónal Conway in the letter to Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross.
Mr Ross told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport he wanted the FAI board to stand down sooner.
“The board is part of the problem, absolutely yes. It is imperative that they step down . . . I would like for them to step down [before the agm]. That is my desire.”
He said there would be no release of capital funding for FAI projects until he was satisfied its governance was in good standing.
The dramatic development came as two major investigations into finances and governance in the FAI, one by Mazars, the other by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement got underway.
The chair of Sport Ireland Kieran Mulvey, and its chief executive John Treacy, told the committee the Mazars’ investigation commissioned by the FAI was being extended dramatically. Mr Mulvey said he had seen the terms included an examination of expenses’ claims and third party transactions relating to board members and employees, including credit card usage.
FAI letter to Shane Ross
Mr Treacy said that the Mazars terms of reference were very extensive. He said an interim report was expected within eight weeks but that it would be “quite a while” before the final report was completed.
Referring to the separate ODCE investigation that launched , Mr Treacy said it would be “as extensive as it needs to be”. He also said its own financial audit would be forensic as it needed to be.
He did not disagree with Fine Gael senator John O’Mahony it would take a year before funds were restored to the FAI, as happened with the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) after it became embroiled in a scandal over the resale of Olympic tickets.
Mr Delaney remains on the payroll of the FAI, and was on “gardening leave” having stepped aside temporarily, said Mr Mulvey.
The auditors of the FAI, Deloitte, have filed a notice with the CRO in stating that accounting records have not been kept by the association.
The regulatory filing must be submitted if auditors form the opinion that the company is contravening, or has contravened, Sections 281 to 285 of the Companies Act 2014. These provisions relate to rules around accounting records.
Such offences on conviction, can lead to fines or terms of imprisonment.
Earlier, Mr Treacy agreed with Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy that Mr Delaney’s leadership style could be compared to that of Pat Hickey, former head of the Olympic Council of Ireland, who resigned after a controversy over ticket reselling at the Rio Olympics.
Ms Murphy referred to an autocratic style of leadership in the OCI with an over dependence on the power of one individual. She asked could he be compared to Mr Delaney?
Mr Treacy replied: “They are very similar, they are very similar, (with a strong) strong personality leading the organisation. He said the balance was wrong in the OCI and was also wrong in the FAI.
Mr Mulvey and Mr Treacy said the FAI had given no indication the entire board intended to stand down when they had a meeting on Monday night. Mr Treacy said it was “really disappointing” not to be told. Mr Mulvey later said: “I want no more surprises and I want no more drip feed. No more relying on third party information.”
In response to Ruth Coppinger (Solidarity), Mr Ross said he would like the board to step down quickly but echoed Mr Treacy’s comments that it might leave a vacuum.
Robert Troy of Fianna Fáil challenged Sport Ireland on its own oversight of the FAI over the past number of years. He also expressed surprise that it had yet to launch a full audit into the association.
Several members of the committee, including chair Fergus O’Dowd, Ms Murpy, and Imelda Munster of Sinn Féin, raised concerns that the Mazars investigation had been commissioned by the FAI and would not be seen as truly independent. Mr Mulvey replied that the ODCE and Sport Ireland would be giving its views on the extensive terms of reference. He also said there was no point in it commissioning a report in its own right that would duplicate the findings of the Mazars report.
The FAI has been beset by controversy since it emerged former chief executive John Delaney gave the association the €100,000 loan in 2017 after it faced a cash flow crisis.
Mr Delaney, who had recently resigned as chief executive, on Monday also stepped down as executive vice-president “pending the completion of an independent investigation by the Association into issues of concern to the board”.
“John Delaney has offered to voluntarily step aside from carrying out his role as Executive Vice-President with immediate effect pending the completion of an independent investigation by the Association into issues of concern to the Board,” read an FAI statement.
Honorary secretary Michael Cody and honorary treasurer Eddie Murray have both already voluntarily resigned from the board.