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State's corporate watchdog launches High Court proceedings over FAI matters

An affidavit was filed yesterday by a solicitor for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

Senior officials in the FAI attended an Oireachtas hearing last month.
Senior officials in the FAI attended an Oireachtas hearing last month.
Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

THE OFFICE OF the Director of Corporate Enforcement wants the High Court to determine if documents given to it by the Football Association of Ireland contains privileged legal material.

The application relates to certain material sought from the FAI by the ODCE, which was supplied by the Association earlier this week.

The application, made under the 2014 Companies Act, comes as part of a probe by the ODCE in relation to “certain matters”  concerning the FAI.

In what was a brief hearing before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds at the High Court on Friday lawyers for the ODCE said the application relates to “potentially legally privileged material”.

In a sworn statement to the court, the ODCE said on April 19th last it issued a notification requiring FAI to hand over copies of books and documents.

The documents sought include the minutes of all meetings of the FAI Board of Directors and Committees of the board for the period January 1st 2016 to March 21st 2019 inclusive.

On Wednesday, May 1st the FAI produced the required documentation, and also placed several documents, in a sperate container, which the association seeks to claim privilege over.

The ODCE now wants the High Court to determine if this material is privileged legal material or not.

The integrity of that allegedly privileged material supplied by the association has been maintained, the ODCE says in its sworn statement.

The FAI has been informed that the ODCE intends to make the application to the court, the ODCE adds.

As part of the application, the ODCE will seek to have a legally qualified person examine the material and prepare a report for the court.

Ms Justice Reynolds granted the ODCE permission to serve short notice of the application asking the court to make a ruling in respect of the material against Cumann Peile na-Eireann, FAI.

The judge adjourned the matter, which will be next mentioned before the court on Tuesday.

Engagement

At a recent hearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Sport, Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy said that the FAI is subject to “substantial” engagement with the ODCE over matters that the watchdog had raised with it. 

TheJournal.ie reported last month that a second complaint regarding alleged discrepancies in the FAI’s finances has been made to the ODCE, and it is understood that it relates to a matter separate to the €100,000 loan provided to the Association by then-CEO John Delaney in 2017. 

The FAI said Delaney had provided the cheque as a “once-off bridging loan to the association to aid a very short-term cash flow issue”. 

Delaney said that the money was repaid in full in June 2017, and that it was the only occasion on which he issued the association with a loan.

However, issues around corporate governance at the FAI arising out of this loan – first reported by the Sunday Times in March – have led to Sport Ireland suspending the provision of exchequer funding to the FAI. 

Delaney has stepped aside from the newly-created role of executive vice president at the FAI pending an investigation into matters at the organisation, while honorary secretary Michael Cody and honorary treasurer also voluntarily stepped aside from the FAI board.

A spokesman for the ODCE said he couldn’t comment on the legal proceedings other than to confirm that an affidavit had been filed in relation to an application from the office.

The FAI told TheJournal.ie: “The FAI is aware of the ODCE application and acknowledges this is part of their ongoing process. The FAI continues to co-operate fully with the ODCE.”

With reporting from Garreth MacNamee, Gavin Cooney, Seán Murray, Peter Bodkin

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Aodhan O Faolain

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