Shane Ross turned down FAI request for up to €30 million

Minister for Sport says football body is in a ‘dark place’ following meeting in Dáil

Minister for Sport Shane Ross has rejected a request for a multimillion-euro financial support package during a meeting with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) on Monday night.

It is understood the organisation sought either direct cash support or a guarantee to support its bank loans, but instead Mr Ross agreed to arrange a meeting with European football’s governing body Uefa.

Mr Ross has said he will seek the meeting “in the coming days” to try to find a solution to the “deep problems inflicted on the FAI”.

Uefa has been providing financial support to the FAI as it tries to secure a multimillion-euro refinancing package from its lenders.

The FAI directors, Shane Ross said, had accepted the need for wide-reaching corporate reforms

Mr Ross said last night the Government “cannot provide direct financial support to the FAI” and confirmed that a forensic audit by financial firm Kosi had found that “an unreformed FAI was unfit to receive government funding”.

“That process of reform is still far from complete,” he said.

Brand damaged

The Minister said the FAI is in “a dark place, the brand has been damaged and much work needs to be done”. The FAI directors, Mr Ross said, had accepted the need for wide-reaching corporate reforms, including the appointment of independent directors and an independent chief executive, as well as the exit of all previous directors and a “full change of culture”.

FAI vice-president Paul Cooke described the meeting as "very constructive", but gave no sense that he and his fellow board members – John Finnegan, Joe O'Brien, Dick Shakespeare, Martin Heraghty and Dave Moran – had obtained anything like the Government guarantees of up to €30 million they are believed to have been hoping for.

Cooke gave little indication of how the roughly 90-minute meeting, the first face-to-face encounter between the Minister and FAI board members since before the summer, had gone.

Pressed on whether it had impacted on his ability to vouch for the association’s solvency, he said only: “We are engaged in financing negotiations with our banks. It’s a movable thing when you are engaging with anybody and we are engaged in financial discussions with our banks.”

Actual ban

Cooke said that imposing any sort of actual ban on individuals would be a matter for a general meeting of the association to vote on. “I think that’s up to the members to decide at an agm,” he said, “whether anybody has a part to play.”

We are all volunteers. There are people working night and day and time is of an issue

Both the Minister and representatives of Sport Ireland are now expected to appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport on Wednesday morning. But Mr Cooke seemed to suggest that the association would again delay its appearance until after the financing issue has been resolved.

“One thing to remember,” he said, “we are all volunteers. There are people working night and day and time is of an issue. We need to get our financing agreed and organised.”