FAI admits to misleading statements about €100,000 ‘loan’

‘Comments made by the FAI did not accurately reflect the board’s level of awareness’

FAI president Donal Conway with executive vice president John Delaney. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

FAI president Donal Conway with executive vice president John Delaney. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

The FAI has had Dublin accountancy firm Grant Thornton onsite at Abbotstown for the past week to review its “books, records and ledgers”, the association revealed in a statement issued by president Donal Conway.

In it, Conway is quoted as saying that the organisation has informed Sport Ireland that it is moving “as fast as we can” to formulate an accurate reply to its inquiries relating to the €100,000 loan reportedly made by John Delaney to the association in April 2017 and then apparently repaid two months later.

The matter, Conway says, is being dealt with by the board sub-committee established last week but, he reveals, the association has also “urgently engaged” Grant Thornton to review the detail of its finances.

He also admits, however, that “some recent comments made by the FAI did not accurately reflect the board’s level of awareness of the existence of the €100,000 issue in 2017.”

He is presumably referring to the statements of March 17th and 18th, both of which clearly state that the board was informed of the financial transaction at all times.

In the first, John Delaney is quoted as stating that: “As CEO, I hold regular meetings with our Director of Finance regarding the state of our finances and all items arising are conveyed to our Board at our monthly meetings. This was the case in 2017.”

That leaves rather a lot of room for the possibility that the directors were simply informed of the matter after the fact but the following day the association itself said that it “reiterates that the bridging loan was made in the best interests of the FAI in 2017 when it experienced a short-term cash flow issue,” and, crucially, goes on to state that: “The Board of the FAI has been kept fully informed in relation to this matter at all times.”

That now appears not to have been the case, although it remains unclear what each individual board member actually did know and when. None of the board members acted to clarify the matter despite a number being approached for comment in Gibraltar and last week at the Under-17 European Championship draw. The matter was not even referenced in the lengthy statement issued on the night of March 23rd when Delaney’s change of role was announced and Conway paid lavish tribute to his work on behalf of the association.

The timing of their latest statement, which will be reflected in the Conway’s lengthy opening address to the Oireachtas Committee for Transport, Tourism and Sport, appears to be intended to prevent the embarrassing admissions it contains actually coming to light during Wednesday’s meeting.

The FAI has confirmed it will be represented by Delaney, acting CEO Rea Walshe, Conway, honorary treasurer Eddie Murray and chair of the association’s legal and corporate affairs committee, Páraic Treanor.

Murray’s account of the events will be particularly interesting. It is bad enough that not all of the board seems to have known what was going on with regard to such an unusual transaction but it would be highly unusual if the suggestion is the treasurer did not know. Either way, he appears to have some serious questions to answer.

The same might be said for the finance director Delaney is quoted as referencing in that statement of March 17th. Eamon Breen has since left the organisation but the committee might want to have him in sometime soon to provide his take on the specific events under discussion.

It is not unheard of in recent years for people employed by the association in senior roles to receive substantial payments when they leave the association. These seem to have been linked to non-disclosure agreements, so it might be wise for the Committee to ensure on Wednesday that he would not be bound by one before extending any invitation.

In the meantime, they need to establish which of the other directors actually authorised the transaction with Delaney and which ones were somehow left out of the loop on what was a truly remarkable state of affairs.

In Monday’s latest statement, Conway says the delay in clarifying matters to Sport Ireland is taking so long because the association (or its board) is now “being mindful of the complexity involved and the need to ensure that all statements we make are accurate and processes are fair and robust .”

We can only imagine how a straightforward statement of the facts could be quite complex, but it is certainly a pity they were not all so mindful when the reports of the €100,000 “loan” were first published more than three weeks ago and all involved were said to be very sure of their position.

There is a statement of regret from Conway over the association’s failure to provide adequate answers to Sport Ireland in a timely matter but, perhaps significantly, no public apology.

He is, he concludes cheerily, “looking forward now to engaging with Committee members on Wednesday as we seek to address all issues raised.”

There are two chances, it now seems, that Wednesday will be the end of it.

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