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'If you don't regulate the FAI, who does?': Sport Ireland faces questions over FAI and the €100k loan

Sport Ireland, which provides funding each year to the FAI, said it isn’t satisfied with what the FAI has said so far.

SPORT IRELAND IS set to write to the FAI tomorrow and say that its explanation thus far over a €100,000 loan given to the organisation by former CEO John Delaney “falls far short” from what is expected.

John Treacy, CEO of Sport Ireland, was among representatives fielding questions from the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport this afternoon.

In his opening statement, Treacy said Sport Ireland has already asked the FAI for urgent clarification as to the circumstances of the €100k loan – details of which were first revealed in the Sunday Times – and its repayment.

Sport Ireland is the statutory agency that provides Exchequer funding to sporting organisations across the country, including the FAI. Last year, it gave the FAI almost €3 million. 

So far, the FAI hasn’t provide a satisfactory answer over the €100k loan, Treacy said, and a new review commissioned by the FAI by independent firm Mazars isn’t a “legitimate” reason for the FAI to withhold answers.

Treacy told the committee that Sport Ireland will write to the FAI again tomorrow and, if satisfactory answers are not provided, its board will hold a meeting on Tuesday to discuss potential sanctions against the FAI – which could include withholding funding.

He said he was aware that cash flow has been issue for the FAI. “But we have no idea why that loan was given,” Treacy said. “That’s why we’re asking the question. 

We think we should be able to get an answer quicker than that. Circumstances of the loan, how it was paid back, the need for it. It shouldn’t be too hard to explain.

As per the agreement that exists between Sport Ireland and the FAI, the FAI must notify if there is a material deterioration in its finances. Treacy indicated that it would have indeed breached these terms of conditions if the FAI failed to disclose financial difficulties in the context of the €100k loan. 

Treacy was asked if he had confidence in the FAI board. He replied: “Well, I’m not saying ‘yes’.”

He was also asked about John Delaney’s new role within the FAI of Executive Vice President, and said he was surprised Sport Ireland wasn’t consulted.

“Today is not a good day for sport to be in here talking about governance within the FAI,” Treacy said.

However, both Treacy and Sport Ireland chair Kieran Mulvey stressed that they didn’t want there to be an adverse effect on the people who play football and work at grassroots levels if funding was withheld from the FAI.

To date, it is happy that the funding it provides goes towards the programmes they’re intended for.

And while Sport Ireland provides taxpayer money and audits the FAI every few years, governance of the organisation rests with the board of the FAI.

It provoked this question from Ruth Coppinger : “If you don’t regulate the FAI, who does?”

Treacy replied that, under the legislation, Sport Ireland doesn’t have the power to do so, and uses what leverage it has infrequently as denying funding could put jobs in jeopardy.

He was also asked if he felt it strange that the CEO of the FAI gets paid more than, for example, the Taoiseach.

Treacy replied: “I did think strange.”

In a statement, Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster said that the response from Sport Ireland today was “telling”. 

“The FAI receives substantial funding from the state, and they must be held to account,” she said.

I am not surprised that they can’t express confidence in the board, given all that’s come to light in recent weeks and the very weak response from the FAI in this time.

John Delaney is set to appear before the Oireachtas Committee next week alongside other FAI officials.

Munster added: “Next week’s meeting with be hugely significant, and hopefully it will shed some light on the bizarre goings-on at the FAI.”

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Sean Murray

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