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'I haven't heard the FAI apologise': Concerns of staff, players and fans after 'shocking' FAI accounts

“How can we be in a scenario where we’re fighting for our jobs, and we did nothing wrong?”

FAI President Donal Conway at the Football Association of Ireland annual accounts for 2018.
FAI President Donal Conway at the Football Association of Ireland annual accounts for 2018.
Image: Sam Boal

REPRESENTATIVES OF THE staff and football fans of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) have held a briefing on the organisation’s financial state, proposed job cuts, and what it means for the future of the game in Ireland.

“I haven’t heard the FAI apologise,” said Stephen McGuinness of the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFAI). “Never heard them apologise for what’s gone on. Not one apology to anyone. Incredible. 

“There’s not been an apology for any board member, and they’re all nearly gone now.”

The briefing follows a “shocking” revelation last week, as the FAI’s annual report showed it had liabilities of over €55 million. The association paid a €462,000 settlement to former CEO John Delaney.

While hosting a briefing of the state of the FAI’s finances, Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said that the FAI’s decision not to appear before the Oireachtas Sports Committee was “a major mistake”, and said that “not only do we have a financial problem, but we have a major attitude problem as well”.

McGuinness said: “I think a generation of players is going to be lost.”

I worry about parents who will look at the sport and send their kids elsewhere – that does really worry me. 

“They’re going to be cuts… If we don’t have the funding, where are the next generation? 

They want to be the next Troy Parrot, or the next Robbie Keane, but we won’t be able to provide it due to the debt that has been taken on by the people who were in a coma – that’s the only way to put it.

He said that Ross had ensured that €195,000 would go towards the women’s team, which he said would be welcomed as “they would be in the firing line” for cuts.

The League of Ireland wouldn’t be affected much, McGuinness added, as there was so little investment put into the league in the first place. 

“I find it hard to believe that no one knew what was going on.”

McGuinness said that it’s “going to be difficult to [get any investment for] the FAI. You wouldn’t be giving anything to the FAI now.”

Job cuts

Denis Hynes of Siptu who represents FAI staff members, said that staff had concerns about funding over the past year, but were reassured by management. 

He said that staff had been contacted on Friday to say that there would be job losses, but the extent of them wasn’t known yet. Hynes said that they could know this week, or they could be told in January. 

“Where we are at the moment is we’re trying to talk to staff, a shop steward I rang said he wasn’t able to talk about it.”

He said that most employees were of the mindset that “this is all done”: “The training of kids and adults is gone, and they’ll be out of a job in the New Year.”

He said staff were wondering: “How can we be in a scenario where we’re fighting for our jobs, we did nothing wrong… and the CEO spent €1.1 million that year? Someone has to be held accountable.”

Tony Considine from the independent supporters’ group You Boys in Green said that “some of the most deprived areas of the country depend on” this kind of FAI funding. 

If you look at reports of what has come from the accounts, €19,000 of FAI money was spent on the former CEO’s birthday party.

“That’s nearly two-thirds of the average annual salary of the FAI. That money should be spent to give social benefits, rather than an individual’s social life.

“Ignorance is no excuse to what was going on.”

FAI cancels Oireachtas Committee appearance

As the press conference took place, the FAI announced that it was “unable to attend” tomorrow’s Oireachtas Sports Committee appearance.

The focus of the board at this moment in time remains the refinancing package that will guarantee the future of the FAI and safeguard jobs, as well as the appointment of an Independent Chairperson and Independent Directors.

Hynes said that it was “terribly disappointed, to put it mildly” the FAI wouldn’t appear before the Oireachtas Sports Committee, as they had been told that they couldn’t go into discussions with Siptu as they were preparing for the Oireachtas appearance. 

Responding to reports that the FAI wouldn’t appear before the Oireachtas Sports Committee tomorrow as had been planned, Ó Ríordán said that the feeling among the general public would be that “this organisation doesn’t want to change, and doesn’t understand the magnitude of how hurt people are”.

If you’re passing up the opportunity to speak honestly about how we repair things and save the game… that’s a major mistake. Not only do we have a financial problem, but we have a major attitude problem as well.

“People will begin to wonder whether it’s beyond repair.”

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