Varadkar seeks FAI answers as sponsors adopt ‘wait and see’ stance

Delaney was ‘within his legal rights’ to stay silent but FAI must be accountable, says Taoiseach

Leo Varadkar said John Delaney is not a public servant, and therefore not accountable to the Oireachtas. Photographer: Jasper Juinen

Leo Varadkar said John Delaney is not a public servant, and therefore not accountable to the Oireachtas. Photographer: Jasper Juinen

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that questions “need to be answered” by the FAI and John Delaney over the €100,000 loan the association received from its then chief executive in 2017.

Speaking today after a week in which Mr Delaney refused to answer questions at an Oireachtas committee about the loan, Mr Varadkar said “I don’t think anyone would be satisfied by it”.

He said: “The public, taxpayers, football fans would have like those questions to be answered.”

Mr Varadkar added Mr Delaney had been under no obligation to answer questions at the Oireachtas committee on transport, tourism and sport this week.

“The truth is that he was within his legal rights not to answer those questions. He is not a public servant and therefore is not accountable to the Oireachtas,” he said.

“However, the FAI is accountable to the Office of the Director for Corporate Enforcement and is accountable to Sport Ireland for the money they get.”

Elsewhere, sources said that they doubt sponsors will abandon the FAI immediately, despite several issuing statements on the controversy this week. One source close to a current FAI sponsor said that it was likely brands would adopt a “wait and see” attitude, adding that it was “not the role of a sponsor to decide what the next part of the process should be”.

Another source with experience of sports sponsorship said the issue was more of a “slow burn”, and that while sponsors would be “highly uncomfortable”, there was not an expectation of any of them walking immediately, unless new information emerges.

The board of Sport Ireland this week made the decision to suspend and withhold future funding to the FAI.

The Taoiseach said that the ODCE and Sport Ireland “will have questions to ask of the FAI which need to be answered thus allowing us to do what we want which is to restore funding to the FAI so the money can flow to local clubs, young people and into sport.”

“The most important thing from the government’s point of view is to make sure that the millions of euros of taxpayers’ money we give to the FAI has been used for the purpose intended,” Mr Varadkar said.

“In terms of John Delaney, the FAI is not a public body – it is a private organisation or company. So I suppose he is within his legal rights not to account to the Oireachtas. He is not a public servant,” he said. “But they [the ODCE and Sport Ireland] have questions to ask and John Delaney and the [FAI]board will have to answer them.”