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Fianna Fáil's Paul McAuliffe holds up a redacted FAI email during tetchy scenes this morning Oireachtas TV

AS IT HAPPENED: FAI's €12,000 payment to CEO was 'slip up' that shouldn’t have happened, PAC told

The committee will seek details of how the FAI used Covid-19 grant funding of €33.7 million.

REPRESENTATIVES OF THE Football Association of Ireland (FAI) were before the Public Accounts Committee this morning as it examined the oversight and governance of Departmental and Sport Ireland funding.

The committee combed through details of how the FAI used Covid-19 grant funding of €33.7 million.

The hearing kicked off at 9.30am and lasted about three hours.

The Journal’s team brought you all the important moments here as they happened.

Good morning! Jane Matthews here reporting for the morning.

While we wait for things to kick off, let’s take note of where things stand.

Ahead of the Committee, chair Brian Stanley noted that in January 2020, the Government announced a financial rescue package for the FAI.

In accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding related to that deal, Sport Ireland has an obligation to monitor the financial position, internal controls and governance of the FAI.

The 2020 package provided €20 million in funding over three years, including a doubling of annual State funding to €5.8 million and an annual interest-free loan of €2.5 million.

This rescue package followed a “governance crisis” within the association.

Stanley said this crisis included “admissions that the association had failed to adhere to conditions for grant funding in 2017”.

Former FAI CEO John Delaney said he issued his employers a personal cheque worth €100,000 in April 2017 which he described as “a once-off bridging loan to the Association to aid a very short-term cash flow issue”.

However, Sport Ireland said the FAI did not give it a full explanation about all circumstances surrounding this loan, which was a requirement of the Sport Ireland funding.

FAI CEO Jonathan Hill will be among the association representatives in attendance at the committee this morning.

And we are off. 

A packed committee room this morning.


The committee is working through opening statements at the moment. 

Seamus McCarthy, the Auditor General of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Office is kicking things off. 

He gives the committee an overview of Sport Ireland’s financial position for 2022. 

Feargal O’Coigligh, the Secretary General of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media is up next. 

He’s giving the committee an overview of the funding provided to the FAI as part of Covid-19 supports by the Government. 

O’Coigligh says €212.9m was spent on sports and recreational activities overall in 2022, up 3% on 2021.

He notes that in November last year, funding that had previously been delayed by the Department was released to the FAI. 

Dr Úna May, the CEO of Sport Ireland is now reading through her opening statement.

Set up in 2015, Sport Ireland is the statutory authority tasked with the development of sport in Ireland.

She tells the committee that she is satisfied that the Covid-19 grants scheme delivered on its objectives and was well managed by the sports sector.

She tells the committee she is happy to answer any questions. 

CEO of the FAI Jonathan Hill tells the committee that he welcomes the opportunity to provide clarification on recent government-related matters. 

Hill is currently providing an overview of his perspective on a payment of €12,000 made to him in lieu of holidays not taken. 

This payment led to a Sport Ireland investigation and state funding being temporarily suspended.

Hill claims he didn’t seek the payment which went against the FAI’s own employee rule book.

Concluding his statement, he says he is excited for what is to come in 2024 and says he is happy to answer committee member questions.

And the questioning begins. 

TD Paul McAuliffe is up first and asks Hill to address the concern that the committee was misled before Christmas in relation to the payment made to him. 

Hill defends what he says was a “throw-away line” in an email to a junior colleague joking about seeking the €12,000 payment in lieu of holidays.

He says the line was misinterpreted and that he did not seriously seek the payment. 

He says he was not party to any of the discussions that then followed in relation to the payment.

“The next I heard of it was a full 10 weeks later,” he says when he was told that the organisation decided to make the payment.

McAuliffe now holding up a redacted version of the email. 

He asks what were the exceptional circumstances outlined by Hill to justify the payment in lieu of holidays. 

Hill said the FAI decided that there were unique circumstances that meant he wasn’t able to take holidays and should instead receive the payment. 

McAuliffe says it the breach of best practice and perhaps legislation is “extraordinary”. 

He says the scenario is “incredibly difficult to believe” and asks Paul Cooke, President of the FAI, if he has confidence in Hill. 

Cooke refuses to say he has confidence in Hill directly, instead saying he has confidence in the senior leadership team. 

Adds his confidence has been “challenged by the events”.

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Committee chair Brian Stanley says in his time on the committee he has never seen an email redacted to this level. 

Asks if it would not have been sufficient to redact the name of the junior member of staff. 

Hill says the redaction was done on legal advice to protect the junior member of staff, denies it was done to protect others as suggested by Stanley. 

TD Catherine Murphy now questioning FAI board member Liz Joyce in relation to financial controls of the organisation. 

Asks if she has lost confidence in the organisation. 

Joyce says she has not lost confidence in the team. 

She is confident the current team is in a position to have adequate controls. 

Discussion now turns to pensions. 

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy asks if individuals can receive pension payments in cash in lieu of contributions into a pension scheme. 

Liz Joyce says she is not in a position to comment on individual terms and conditions of employment but says that it does happen.

Fianna Fáil TD James O’Connor now in the seat for questions. 

Says it has been an “extraordinary meeting so far”. 

Asks for an overview of the Covid-19 support grant payments made to the FAI, and is told it was €33.7 million over three years. 

In a tweet a short while ago, Fianna Fáil’s Paul McAuliffe wrote alongside a picture of the email chain received from the FAI: 

“This morning the FAI made available the email chain behind the decision to pay their CEO for annual leave that was not taken.

“Within this email is the reasoning why circumstances were so unique that the org deviated from their own HR polices, best practice for employee rest and the organisation of working time act. It’s entirely redacted.”

O’Connor wants to know if Covid funds were used to pay off debt by the FAI, something not permitted. 

FAI says that just under €1m was used to pay off a “legacy capital” debt.

Sport Ireland’s Úna May says KOSI audit assured them the FAI spent the money correctly.

Gavin Cooney, sports reporter with our sister publication The 42,  is currently down at the committee hearing in Leinster House. 

You can follow along with his updates on Twitter/X too: 

The Committee has called time for a short ten-minute break. 

We’ll be back with the latest soon.

And we’re back! 

TD Cormac Devlin asks if the legal advice received around the redacted email was on behalf of the junior staff member or the association itself. 

He’s told it was on behalf of the organisation itself.

FAI board member Tony Keohane says the legal advice was received step by step throughout the process after they received the request for information from the Oireachtas Committee.

He says he does not know if individual employees sought legal advice. 

Devlin circles back to Hill’s “throw-away” comment in the email regarding the €12,000 payment.

Says it is a good thing he didn’t ask for a private jet because it seems like anything he asked for materialised. 

Devlin tells the committee that the FAI seems to be going from “bad to worse” and that the organisation doesn’t need any more bad headlines. 

Hill rejects this and says financially the organisation is in a much better position than it was before he took up the reins as CEO. 

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Sinn Féin TD John Brady now asks the FAI about recent boycotts. 

He asks about decisions taken in 2022 to boycott games against Russia and Belarus.

He asks Hill what the FAI’s view is of the lifting of the UEFA underage teams last year. 

Hill tells the committee the FAI was not comfortable with the lifting of that ban. He says this was because the FAI felt the initial decision was correct. 

Brady asks what the FAI’s view is in relation to Ireland’s U17 girls’ game tomorrow against Israel. 

Hill says the position in relation to this is that UEFA is allowing games against Israel. 

Brady asks if this reflects a “level of hypocrisy” from the FAI. 

FAI says it is being consistent and abiding by its governing body’s rules. 

Brady maintains that there is a level of hypocrisy there from the FAI in continuing to play games against Israel as it has not voiced any concerns to UEFA in relation to Israel’s war in Gaza.

Separately, the committee hears conversations are ongoing on setting up a League of Ireland match against Palestine. 

Initially, it was proposed that the Ireland international team would play the match, but that is not feasible given fixture commitments during the approved international windows.

Brady says there are double standards at play in Sports Ireland and the FAI in relation to the approach taken to Israel as a result of its war in Gaza and to Russia as a result of its war with Ukraine.

He says this is regrettable.

FAI board member Tony Keohane tells the committee that this is the beginning of the next phase for the FAI and says the “slip up” with the €12,000 payment shouldn’t have happened. 

He maintains that he has confidence in CEO of the FAI Jonathan Hill.

Sport Ireland’s ceo Úna May tells the committee that she received the email at the same time as the committee and that it was redacted in the same way.

When asked by the chair if she is happy with what has transpired she asks: “Happy in what way?”

When she is pushed on this point she says would be very happy to follow up and seek additional information if asked to do so, but she is satisfied Sport Ireland has received the information that it needed. 

Committee chair Brian Stanley now asks Hill to disclose his salary.

Hill says he earns €258,000 annually as ceo of the FAI, equivalent to Grade 1 of a Secretary General in the civil service.

He refuses to disclose any additional benefits he receives.

Committee hears that the FAI has outstanding debts of just under €43m.

When asked if the organisation is relying a lot on borrowed money, Hill says “yes”. 

He adds though that repayments of borrowings to Bank of Ireland are built into the FAI’s projections for next year. 

The committee is told that the FAI’s cash position is in the “low single-digit millions” and in general is “closer to one than nine”.

Sport Ireland’s Úna May says the FAI situation was “particularly bad” hence why funding was withheld last year. 

She says it does happen with other organisations, but that it is unusual.

Discussion returns to the redacted emails provided to the committee. 

When asked if he would be comfortable supplying the full emails to “put the matter to bed”, Hill said the FAI has received legal advice that it can not do so.

TD James O’Connor says it is “quite extraordinary” that a meeting between the FAI went on until close to midnight last night ahead of today’s hearing and asks if there is something else being hidden. 

FAI board member Tony Keohane says that from his position, he is confident that there is not.

Here is one of the emails supplied to the committee: 



Committee told by FAI board member Catherine Guy that it is “remarkably unfair” to say there was a strategy of concealment in relation to the level of redaction of the emails provided to the committee.

TD Alan Dillon asks if it was necessary for dates and times of emails to be redacted.

He is told by Guy that as an employer, the FAI did so in respect of its employer obligations to staff. 

When asked if the FAI would have been in the position to repay one of its loans without the Covid-19 grant from Sport Ireland, the committee is told by the FAI COO that if the FAI had not received Covid supports, “the organisation may not even be here today”.

And that’s a wrap for today. 

As The 42‘s Gavin Cooney says: “They’ve got the managerial search out of the headlines at least.”

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