FAI board under pressure to go as Delaney steps aside

Members of Oireachtas committee say association’s latest action ‘insulting’

John Delaney: offer to step aside temporarily was greeted with astonishment by members of the parliamentary committee examining governance within the FAI who expected him to step down. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

John Delaney: offer to step aside temporarily was greeted with astonishment by members of the parliamentary committee examining governance within the FAI who expected him to step down. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

 

The board of the Football Association of Ireland will come under enormous pressure to step down in its entirety on Tuesday after politicians poured scorn on its decision to allow John Delaney temporarily step aside from his senior role.

Members of the parliamentary committee examining governance within the association have described the said actions taken by the board on Monday as “insulting”, “offensive” and not going far enough. Five leading members of the committee from across the political spectrum told The Irish Times the crisis had now reached a stage where members of the board need to resign en masse, if public confidence in the FAI were to be restored.

In a statement last night the board said Mr Delaney has offered to step aside voluntarily from his role as executive vice president of the Football Association of Ireland pending the completion of its internal investigation into a bridging loan of €100,000 he made to it in 2017.

The announcement Mr Delaney would move aside temporarily was made by the board of the FAI after a meeting in the Carlton Dublin Airport hotel on Monday.

The decision was received with astonishment by members of the committee who expected Mr Delaney might step down as a result of the crisis that has engulfed the FAI since the existence of the loan was disclosed last month.

The situation was exacerbated at the committee’s marathon hearing last week, where the former chief executive refused to answer questions on the loan, and other board members were vague and minimalist in their response to question.

‘They should all resign’

Fergus O’Dowd, chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport last night said he was deeply concerned at the decisions. He said the temporary withdrawal of Mr Delaney from his new role would not appease concerns about governance in the FAI, or the reasons behind the unusual loan.

“The facts are that he should resign and they should all resign,” he said.

“I have no confidence in Mr Delaney and the corporate governance of the organisation. That situation remains the same.”

A statement issued by the board just before 6pm also announced that two long-standing members of the board – honorary secretary Michel Cody and honorary treasurer Eddie Murray – had both resigned. It has also indicated it will accept fully independent members for its key committees reviewing governance in the organisation, as well as on a sub-committee of the board examining the circumstances around the bridging loan from Mr Delaney in April 2017.

The developments come ahead of Sport Ireland and the two Government Ministers in charge of sports policy, Shane Ross and Brendan Griffin, appearing before the Oireachtas committee on Tuesday to discuss the developments.

There were indications on Monday night that the Government, and Sport Ireland (both of which have frozen funding to the FAI) will say its response has not been sufficient and it must take fundamental actions for confidence to be restored.

Chairman Kieran Mulvey is expected to disclose in his opening statement to the committee that Sport Ireland might ask its own auditors to conduct a full audit of the FAI.

Sacrificial lambs

He said the FAI’s own admission that it breached terms in not disclosing the €100,000 loan would mean the audit would be “as broad and extensive as necessary to satisfy Sport Ireland that the FAI is compliant [and] its internal financial controls and management, as well as its general governance, are of sufficient standard in order to restore funding”.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on transport and sport Robert Troy said two veteran board members had been made into sacrificial lambs in order for the board and Mr Delaney to preserve their position.

“The country has lost faith and confidence in the entire board and they need to go,” he contended.

Sinn Féin spokeswoman Imelda Munster said Monday night’s statement was not good enough in any shape or form.

“John Delaney needs to go and he needs to take the board with him,” she said.

Another committee member, Catherine Murphy, said the statement was “so minimalist that it is offensive. It’s not good enough. If the board of the FAI think it’s enough they are so removed from reality,” she said.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock all called for Mr Delaney’s immediate resignation: “He is still trying to stay on the squad if not the pitch,” he said.

Elsewhere, in a letter sent to the committee, the FAI said the €100,000 loan was not included in monthly accounts given to the board as they only contain profit and loss figures, which it described as “normal”.

The FAI refused to release more information about payments to creditors at the time, saying it was “commercially sensitive”. The letter also discloses €430,000 was paid in key management remuneration. This included Mr Delaney’s €360,000 and €70,000 in honorarium payments for officers of the board.

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