FAI chief Jonathan Hill’s salary increased 22% since 2020, Oireachtas committee hears

Jonathan Hill’s salary increased from €211,000 to €258,000 while he reiterated his unreserved apology for receipt of extra payments in lieu of holidays not taken

Jonathan Hill’s salary increased from €211,000 to €258,000 in three years, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief executive informed a joint-Oireachtas committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media on Tuesday.

Since becoming CEO in October 2020, Hill has received a 22 per cent pay rise. The 240-strong FAI staff got an average rise of 12 per cent in the same period. Past and future annual increases are in line with the pay structure of secretaries generals in government departments, he informed the media at Leinster House on Wednesday afternoon.

“That’s what my contract says,” said Hill after politicians were finished examining FAI governance. “It has to be approved by the board and discussed by the board. It’s exactly what my contract says, yes.

“That was not something I asked for, it was something that was offered as part of the contract negotiation, as part of the memorandum of understanding [MOU]. That is what the contract is.”


The FAI has conceded that last year they breached the terms of the MOU by paying Hill more than the General Secretary salary of €270,000 when additional payments were factored in.

“In short,” said Hill. “The CEO’s total remuneration in 2022 exceeded that of a General Secretary. We sincerely thought we were acting within the MOU.”

According to FAI accounts, Hill’s total pay last year was €282,812 but he returned a gross figure of just over €20,000 when a Sport Ireland-Kosi audit discovered erroneous expenses for commuting from London and a payment in lieu of holidays not taken.

The Government subsequently suspended funding amounting to €6.8 million.

Hill also put the cost of not reaching Euro 2024 at €10 million before he “apologised unreservedly” for a third time in recent weeks for the extra payments, having already expressed regret to FAI staff and the general assembly during last Saturday’s AGM.

The salary of John Delaney, the former FAI CEO, peaked at €431,000 in 2010. Before leaving the FAI in 2019, Delaney was on €360,000 with additional pension contributions worth €285,714.

When Hill was asked about the reputational damage to the FAI caused by historical issues around executive salaries, he responded: “That’s how the contract is structured. As always, the board will look at that and review it.”

The FAI board, and what they did not know, goes to the nub of this controversy. Roy Barrett, the former chairperson, did not tell his directors about sanctioning additional payments to Hill in 2022.

This forced the Oireachtas committee to spend two hours on Wednesday afternoon trying to learn from FAI directors, staff, and Barrett exactly how these sums came to be agreed and paid. They have asked for a chain of emails to be made available.

“These recent events may result in people questioning whether the FAI has reformed itself, the reality and absolute truth of the matter is that we have,” said Hill.

Maybe so, but fresh information around the payments revealed a divided FAI board as independent directors Liz Joyce and Packie Bonner were surprised by Barrett’s decision.

After being approached by FAI staff member Aoife Rafferty and former finance director Alex O’Connell, Barrett informed Joyce, a former human resources director at the Central Bank of Ireland, of possible payments to the CEO. In December 2022, Joyce advised that “it was not good practice”.

“I gave an opinion and assumed the situation was closed until the outcome of the Kosi report,” said Joyce. “The breaches that took place were unintentional.”

Bonner, despite being a board member since 2021, was taken unawares by the scandal.

“This has been disappointing, I must admit, from my perspective,” said the former Celtic and Ireland goalkeeper. “I wasn’t aware of the issue until after the board meeting on November 1st.”

The committee directed most of its criticism at Barrett but Alan Dillon, the former Mayo footballer and Fine Gael TD, asked Hill if he can continue as FAI CEO.

“Absolutely,” Hill replied. “We have genuinely made real progress as an organisation, and I am committed to the process of continuing that progress.”

Sinn Féin duo Imelda Munster and Chris Andrews reserved a particular line of questioning and criticism for Barrett. The current chairperson of Sherry Fitzgerald changed his stance from Saturday’s FAI AGM, when he refused to apologise, but after stating that he presumed the information on payments would be “relayed back by executives involved to the relevant committee”, Munster interrupted him.

“Did you ever hear such rubbish?” she asked. “‘Executives involved to the relevant committee!’ You were the independent chair, why didn’t you do that? You made the decision.”

Barrett apologised with “context” and for his “role” in the payments.

Andrews, describing the FAI position to be “like a throwback to the John Delaney era,” asked Barrett if he would make the same decision again?

“Would I make the same decision today after all that happened? No. I made the decision in good faith. I was never trying to hide anything. The recommendation came to me, I thought I had the authority to make that decision.”

The hearing was supposed to discuss the FAI’s infrastructure plan as it is seeking €863 million from central Government over a 15-year period.

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Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent