FAI to unveil former FA commercial director Jonathan Hill as new chief executive

Hill’s record in revenue generation seen as key to him landing position

 

The Football Association of Ireland is to have a new chief executive for the first time since 2005 as former English FA commercial director Jonathan Hill completes final negotiations over filling the vacancy.

Olympic Federation of Ireland president Sarah Keane had emerged as the favourite to fill the permanent vacancy once interim boss Gary Owens pulled out of the running and, while she made the final interview stage last Friday, Hill’s candidature was considered by the interview board as most suitable given their current challenges.

Facing a period when the debt-ridden association requires significant private turnover to complement the State aid clinched by recent reform updates, Hill can point to a proven track record in driving revenues.

He more than doubled commercial income to €900 million during a five-year cycle at the FA.

Since leaving Soho Square in 2009, the Leeds United fan, who started out in the broadcasting industry, has remained in sport, working for leading companies such as Kentaro, IMG, WPP, and most recently Laureus.

One of the rivals he beat off for the post was his former colleague at the English FA, Adrian Bevington.

Hill will be paid €207,590 per annum – a steep drop from €360,000 salary, plus contentious benefits such as rental allowance paid to Delaney – but his package includes attractive cuts from any new sponsorship deals.

As per the State’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the FAI, the salary has to be equivalent to a public department secretary general.

The FAI have not had a permanent chief since John Delaney stepped aside on gardening leave in March 2019, after which restated accounts revealed the current debts stand at over €60 million. A number of investigations into governance and finance were launched, with the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) continuing their probe into various transactions.

Delaney quit six months later with a €462,000 pay-off and a book charting his rise and fall over 15 years at the helm was released this week.

Rea Walshe, Noel Mooney, Paul Cooke and, most recently, Owens, have since held the post on a temporary basis.

Owens’s six-month contract was extended in July as the original timeframe for sourcing a full-time appointment was delayed.

Odgers Berndtson, the global recruitment firm deployed by the English FA to source their leading executives, were also retained by the FAI for this selection process.

Speaking to UP magazine last month, Hill said he was ready for a return to the mainstream sports sector.

He said: “I’ve got a lot of experience in the football sector but have been lucky enough to build experience across a range of sports, so I would love to be able to help any entity within any sport to push itself forward to be and remain relevant in the ever changing world we live in.

“I also think that ultimately, the quality and philosophy of the people I work with is of paramount importance.

“It’s something I’ve learnt as I travelled through my working life, you must be working with like-minded people who share a vision, a philosophy of life and business, because business has to be fun.

“You have to enjoy what you’re doing and get up in the morning and look forward to going to work and hopefully I can do that within a strong and forward-looking sporting franchise and again, both apply, and pass on my experience, knowledge and contacts.”

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