FAI CEO Jonathan Hill survives a mini-board revolt

Canham to unveil Ireland men’s manager on April 11th or 12th

Moves to oust Jonathan Hill as chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland did not garner enough support at this morning’s board of directors meeting in Abbotstown.

Hill was heavily criticised by the Public Accounts Committee in Leinster House last month and within the association for the way he explained a €11,500 payment in lieu of holidays not taken in 2022.

The English-based chief executive of Irish football was forced to repay the money and another €8,000 benefit-in-kind that he received for commuting expenses after a Kosi audit discovered his salary had breached the €270,000 maximum previously agreed.

Under the terms of the 2020 Government bailout, FAI executives cannot be paid more than a general secretary in a Government department.


Sport Ireland subsequently suspended €6.8 million in grants for Irish football. The funds have since been released and Hill repaid the €19,500.

His salary, however, has increased by 23 per cent since 2020, rising from €211,000 to €258,000. Initially, he was offered a reported €30,000 relocation allowance which he did not take up, citing personal reasons to remain living in England.

Hill survived the four-hour board meeting on two counts; firstly, directors could not muster the support needed to remove him, and the cost of buying out the remaining years of his contract could exceed €500,000.

Former CEO John Delaney left the association in September 2019 with a €462,000 pay-off.

The board in general accepted that while Hill’s performance before PAC damaged the FAI’s reputation, it was not a sackable offence.

The former FA commercial director refused to concede that he “requested” the €11,500 payment despite replying to an email from Alex O’Connell, the former financial director, about the “request” with one word: “perfect”.

He had earlier asked a junior FAI employee, who had received a one-off payment for holidays-not-taken, “Can you negotiate the same for me?”. This, he claims, was a “throwaway line” meant as a joke.

This excuse, given before two separate joint-Oireachtas committees since December was widely rejected by politicians, with Fine Gael Alan Dillon TD branding it a “cock and bull” story.

At the second PAC hearing last month, FAI president Paul Cooke said that his confidence in Hill has been “challenged” which suggested the CEO’s position could prove untenable as strong relations with the sitting Government are crucial to the FAI receiving a requested €517 million over 15 years to improve facilities around the country.

Roy Barrett, the FAI’s previous independent chairman, repeatedly defended the CEO he helped to recruit. However, after Barrett was heckled an the AGM by delegates last December, his replacement as chair Tony Keohane took the stage to criticise Barrett’s decision to pay Hill without board approval.

“I’ll be blunt. That won’t happen on my watch,” said Keohane.

Hill was recommended in 2020 by a five-person interview panel ahead of Olympic Federation of Ireland president Sarah Keane and John Feehan, who is CEO of Basketball Ireland.

“The board of the FAI had its scheduled end of month meeting this morning and a range of issues were discussed,” said a spokesperson this afternoon. “The process to appoint our senior men’s team head coach will now be finalised, led by the CEO and director of football [Marc Canham], with an announcement in April as planned.”

Canham will appoint a replacement for Stephen Kenny on April 11th or 12th. An earlier announcement was postponed to avoid a clash with the women’s Nations League tie against England at the Aviva Stadium on April 9th.

Hill has not spoken to the media since the Nations League draw in Paris on February 8th.

“It’s been a fascinating and unexpected week in politics that reminds us all that one of football’s greatest strengths is the ability to surprise when we expect it least,” he wrote in the programme notes before Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Switzerland.

“We have been welcoming an increasing number of politicians to our games over the last three years which is testimony to the progress we have made generally as an association since the difficult days of early 2020 and before.”

For the FAI, difficult days are never far away.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent