Former FAI chairperson Roy Barrett will attend the joint Oireachtas committee hearing next week to explain the rationale behind additional payments made to Jonathan Hill.
The Irish Times has established that Barrett sanctioned the €20,500 payments to Hill, the association’s chief executive, for commuting expenses and in lieu of holidays not taken in 2021 and 2022.
Hill repaid €8,500 of benefit in kind and €12,000 in holiday pay after a Sport Ireland KOSI audit found the payments to be in conflict with the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Barrett and former minister for sport Shane Ross in 2020. The MOU was agreed to allow a €30 million Government bailout for the FAI to be drawn down.
The leaking of Hill’s payments to the media is seen by one faction of a split FAI board as the latest in a series of attempts to oust the London-based chief executive.
“There is a concerted effort out there to remove Jonathan Hill,” a source told The Irish Times. “This is about people trying to take back control of the FAI board.”
On discovery of the payments to Hill earlier this year, Sport Ireland temporarily suspended Government funding of €6.8 million. Hill “apologised unreservedly” to staff but Siptu members within the FAI subsequently wrote to Thomas Byrne, Minister of State for Sport, to say they had “lost confidence in the FAI senior management and some members of the FAI board” and their ability to “restore trust” with the Irish public.
Barrett, who is currently Sherry Fitzgerald chairman, stepped away from the FAI on November 9th after four years at the helm. This followed the failure of an EGM to secure 40 per cent female representation on the board of directors. Any sporting body which does not have at least 40 per cent female representation on their board by the end of the year risks having their State funding cut in half.
Both the GAA and the IRFU recently implemented new structures to ensure they hit the gender quota. The FAI still hopes to expand their board to 14 members with two extra women by this month’s deadline despite the General Assembly vote last month failing to hit the necessary 75 per cent majority required to enact such change.
This forces today’s agm to be preceded by another emergency meeting to vote on new terms around board expansion. The plan is to add two independent female directors, bringing the number to seven. A failure to meet the gender quota would result in a €4.3 million cut in Government funding.
Last year Barrett flagged his departure from the FAI as an opportunity to be replaced by a female chairperson but Cork native Tony Keohane, the former Tesco CEO and a Munster Rugby commercial board member, is expected to be ratified in his place on Saturday.
FAI vice-president Paul Cooke is being challenged by fellow board member Joe O’Brien to succeed Gerry McAnaney as president.
Catherine Guy and Liz Joyce are among the independent directors seeking re-election. Non-independents Tom Browne and Dave Moran could also return to the board alongside former FAI schools representative Nixon Morton.
The joint Oireachtas committee, chaired by Niamh Smyth TD, has also requested the presence of Packie Bonner, McAnaney, Hill and fellow directors Niamh O’Mahony, Guy and Joyce for next Wednesday’s hearing at Leinster House.
The FAI senior management are also due before the Public Accounts Committee on February 1st to explain the distribution of €33.7 million in Covid grants.