‘Fundamental and grave questions’ over FAI governance – committee

Suspension of funding by Sport Ireland to football body justified say politicians

Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy arrives at Leinster House to appear before committee regarding funding to the FAI. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy arrives at Leinster House to appear before committee regarding funding to the FAI. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Sport Ireland’s decision to suspend funding from the Football Association of Ireland for a breach of funding rules has raised “fundamental and grave questions” about its governance, the chair of the all-party committee on sport has said.

Fergus O’Dowd was one of several senior TDs who said on Tuesday that Sport Ireland was “fully justified” in suspending funding from the Football Association of Ireland after its own admission to the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport in its opening statement breached the terms and conditions for drawing down State funding.

“This is a very important development with very significant repercussions,” he said. “Clearly it means there are very serious governances issues within the FAI and substantial changes will have to be made.”

The committee is to hold marathon hearings on Wednesday, expected to take at least eight hours.

At issue is governance within the association in light of the disclosure that its former chief executive John Delaney made a payment of €100,000 to the FAI in April 2017.

The payment was not notified to Sport Ireland and was therefore not compliant with funding terms.

In a letter to the FAI, John Treacy, Sport Ireland chief executive, also stated that the inquiry into the €100,000 payment by the Office of Corporate Enforcement was “substantial”.

“This put increased pressure on the FAI to change significantly. The withdrawal of funding means the writing is on the wall for them,” said Mr O’Dowd.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on transport and sport Robert Troy said there was no other option than the suspension of funding.

“The FAI will have a mammoth task to justify their positions when they appear before the Oireachtas committee,” he said.

“Once again we see a situation where the failure of senior executives in an organisation impacts the grassroots hardest. The funding goes towards development officers and underage levels.”

Remit

The all-party committee held a private meeting on Tuesday afternoon to discuss its approach to Wednesday’s hearings. The committee was warned by its legal adviser that it would have to stay strictly within the remit of the questions, which revolve around governance in the organisation. The warning was prompted by the legal actions taken by individuals against other Oireachtas committees over the scope and lien of their questioning.

Social Democrat co-leader Catherine Murphy said Sport Ireland had told the committee last week it would not take a decision over withholding funding from the association until the committee had concluded its hearings. She said, however, that the FAI’s own admission to the committee in its opening statement had prompted a suspension, which she said was justified.

“The fact is that the FAI has yet to give a full explanation as to why it needed the loan.

“A situation like this has happened before with the Olympic Council of Ireland. It had its funding suspended until it got its house in order and now it is in a much healthier position and is a really well-run organisation,” she said.

The public hearings will commence at 10am and are not expected to conclude until 6pm. In addition to a close examination of the €100,000 payment from Mr Delaney, committee members are also expected to conduct an in-depth investigation into the report commissioned by the FAI which recommended a new rule of executive vice-president be created for Mr Delaney.