FAI keen to rebuild trust with Sport Ireland after funding suspension

Delay in obtaining €1.45m in frozen funding likely to cause major problems for FAI

Former FAI chief executive John Delaney expected to attend Oireachtas committe meeting. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Former FAI chief executive John Delaney expected to attend Oireachtas committe meeting. Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

 

The Football Association of Ireland has said it “is keen to restore trust and confidence and rebuild the relationship with Sport Ireland as soon as possible”, in the wake of its funding having been suspended by the statutory authority.

Sport Ireland said its board had made the decision after the FAI had itself admitted it had broken the organisation’s terms and conditions of grant approval with regard to its obligation to report “any material deterioration in its financial position”.

The problem arises out of the suggestion that the FAI’s former chief executive, John Delaney, had to loan his employer €100,000 in April 2017 in order to help it through a problem with cash flow.

It made the admission in an opening statement by the association’s president, Donal Conway, to members of the Oireachtas Committee for Transport, Tourism and Sport ahead of the appearance by senior FAI officers and officials in front of the committee on Wednesday. Copies of the statement had been circulated in advance.

Delaney, as well as Rea Walsh who has replaced him as chief executive on an interim basis, are also expected to attend Wednesday’s hearing along with honorary treasurer Eddie Murray and chair of its legal and corporate affairs committee, Páraic Treanor.

The suspension of funding is a substantial blow to an organisation whose financial position has been in the spotlight in recent weeks. Sport Ireland was due to provide about €2.9 million in government money to the association this year. Half of that amount has already been drawn down but any significant delay in obtaining the other €1.45 million would likely pose significant issues for the association.

It is also a major embarrassment to its former chief executive who has always rejected suggestions of poor governance at the association. Delaney is likely to be a focus for many of the questions posed by the Senators and TDs although the board members are bound to come under scrutiny too, especially in the wake of what have been contradictory statements from the association in recent days and the clear suggestion that not all of the directors are themselves sure of what exactly has been going on at the organisation’s Abbotstown headquarters.

Sport Ireland has said it will consider the reinstatement of funding when the already commissioned reports by the FAI – one currently underway into its finances by consultants Grant Thornton; the other at the planning stage into its governance by consultants Mazars – are complete and all recommendations have been implemented. It also said it will have to be satisfied that “all necessary processes and controls are in place to ensure the FAI’s ongoing compliance with the terms and conditions of grant approval”.

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