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'The €100,000 issue': A timeline of statements as FAI, John Delaney to face politicians today

Here’s what the FAI has been saying over the past few weeks ahead of today’s Oireachtas hearing.

Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

TODAY, SENIOR OFFICIALS from the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) including former CEO John Delaney will appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Sitting atop the agenda will be the recent furore surrounding the €100,000 loan given by Delaney, now-executive vice president of the FAI, to the organisation and the fallout surrounding that. 

The FAI confirmed on Monday that Delaney would be part of its delegation this week before the committee, with politicians set to probe members of the organisation on this and a range of other issues.

The spotlight on the FAI intensified yesterday when Sport Ireland announced it had decided to suspend and withhold funding from the FAI. 

All the focus will be on Committee Room 4 at Leinster House today from this morning onwards, so here’s a timeline of how we’ve made it this far.

16 March 2019

The entire affair kicked off in public on the evening of Saturday 16 March, when Sunday Times journalist Mark Tighe sent out a tweet saying that he’d been in the High Court after an injunction was initiated to try to prevent the newspaper from printing a story about “FAI and Delaney payments”. 

In the subsequent story published in the paper, Tighe reported that CEO John Delaney had given the FAI a cheque for €100,000, but it wasn’t clear why this had happened. The article also stated the FAI had been given 15 days to respond to queries from the newspaper about the cheque.

After the publication went to print that evening, the FAI issued its first statement regarding this matter, and said that Delaney had given the organisation a “€100,000 bridging loan in April 2017″, noting he was repaid in full two months later.

He said it was to aid a “very short-term cash flow issue” and it was the only occasion he’d provided the association with a short-term loan.

17 March

On St Patrick’s Day, the FAI issued a second, far lengthier statement.

It began by describing how the organisation had formed a governance committee in February 2017, and had initiated work on a number of “key reforms” in that time. It also said a full review of the FAI’s executive governance and senior management structures by an external consultant had been commissioned. 

“This latest review will future proof Irish football and we will embrace the recommendations,” Delaney said.

The CEO also addressed the €100k loan again. He said he acted in the best interests of the association “at a time when immediate funding was needed”.

He said it had no impact on the full financial position of the association for the year and was a “matter of timing”.

“As CEO, I hold regular meetings with our director of finance regarding the state of our finances and all items arising are conveyed to our board at our monthly meetings.

This was the case in 2017 when I acted in good faith for the benefit of the FAI and will continue to do so.

18 March

Another day, another statement as the FAI said it had received a number of questions in relation to the bridging loan.

A spokesperson reiterated the review under way of executive governance and senior management structures, and repeated that the bridging loan was “made in the best interests of the FAI in 2017 when it experienced a short-term cash flow issue”.

“The board of the FAI has been kept fully informed in relation to this matter at all times.” 

fai press release 2

19 March

On Tuesday 19 March, Sport Ireland – the agency that provides exchequer funding to the FAI – said it had written to the President of the FAI seeking “urgent clarification” from the board of the FAI on the media reports surrounding the John Delaney loan. 

“Sport Ireland was not notified at any stage in 2017 about any apparent material deterioration in the FAI’s financial position, as per Sport Ireland terms and conditions of grant approval, and has sought additional clarification in relation to his matter,” it said.

In response, the FAI issued a brief statement acknowledging receipt of this correspondence.

It said: “The association is currently preparing a reply to [Sport Ireland CEO John] Treacy and will respond at the earliest opportunity.”

20 March

In this statement, the FAI said it was willing to meet with Minister for Sport Shane Ross and Sport Ireland to discuss these matters further. It also said it had contacted the State’s corporate watchdog in relation to the loan.

“The FAI has also written to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement offering clarification on any issues raised by a 2017 bridging loan made by CEO John Delaney to the association and will answer any questions that the ODCE may have,” it said.

fai statement 20 march

21 March

For the sixth day in a row, the FAI issued a statement on Thursday 21 March.

Here, it said it had offered to bring forward its appearance before the Oireachtas Committee to 3 April, instead of 10 April. It also confirmed John Delaney would lead the delegation.

23 March

Saturday 23 March marked the start of Mick McCarthy’s second reign in charge of the Irish men’s national team, as the boys in green took on Gibraltar away from home.

Rumours had been swirling of a potential big announcement coming after the game, and the FAI duly obliged.

After a dour 1-0 win, the FAI announced that John Delaney was stepping down as its CEO, after almost 15 years at the helm.

“The Board of the FAI has adopted a review of its senior management structure that will see CEO John Delaney moved to a new position of Executive Vice President with immediate effect,” it said.

Chief operating officer Rea Walshe was appointed interim CEO.

The FAI said this move came on the back of the review – mentioned in previous statements – by Jonathan Hall Associates, which recommended the creation of a new role.

The FAI said: “The Board voted unanimously at its meeting on 22 March to appoint CEO John Delaney to the newly-created role of Executive Vice President.”

The responsibilities for this new role include all FIFA and UEFA matters. The EVP would also work on special projects agreed by the board and the new CEO, and be available to new CEO for assistance.

“This new role is one that really excites me,” Delaney said, before detailing progress made during his time as CEO at the FAI.

24 March

The following day, the FAI issued a statement to say that Delaney would take a substantial reduction in salary after taking up the new role.

Previously, he’d earned €360,000 a year as CEO. As executive vice president, it’s understood he’ll earn around €120,000 per annum. 

It also said that it would begin recruitment of a new CEO, with interviews set to take place in May ahead of an unveiling in Trim in July.

30 March

A number of fans expressed their displeasure with the matters relating to Delaney in a protest that saw tennis balls thrown onto the pitch at Ireland’s home game vs Georgia on 26 March.

However, the FAI’s next statement wasn’t released until Saturday 30 March.

In this statement, the board of the FAI acknowledged the “concerns expressed by members of the football family, supporters, commentators, politicians and the public around recent media stories concerning the Association”. 

It said it was fully committed to addressing these issues of concern and was undertaking steps to do so. 

The board said it had established a sub-committee, from amongst its members, which is closely working with the FAI’s external advisors and auditors to address these matters.

It also said that consulting group Mazars had now been commissioned by this sub-committee to conduct an independent and in-depth external review of all matters.

8 April

On Wednesday 3 April, representatives from Sport Ireland appeared before the Oireachtas Committee that the FAI will face today.

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

Treacy also refused to say he had confidence in the board of the FAI, and said the explanation thus far had fallen “far short” from what is expected.

In the most recent statement it issued on Monday 8 April, FAI President Donal Conway confirmed that Delaney would attend the committee hearing today. 

fai statement

“The board acknowledges the misgivings raised by Sport Ireland and the Oireachtas Committee last week and is also cognisant of the concerns of the football family and all stakeholders.” Conway said. 

The statement referenced the Mazars review, and added that the association has “separately and urgently” engaged Grant Thornton to conduct an internal review of the FAI’s books, records and ledgers.

Conway said that no disrespect was intended to Sport Ireland by the lateness of its letter outlining its stance on the €100k loan. “I regret that it could not be provided before their meeting,” he said.

“The association has advised Sport Ireland that we are moving as fast as we can, being mindful of the complexity involved and the need to ensure that all statements we make are accurate and processes are fair and robust,”Conway said. 

Sport Ireland’s dissatisfaction was reinforced yesterday, when it announced that it had decided to suspend and withhold future funding to the FAI.

The board of Sport Ireland said it will consider the reinstatement of funding once all ongoing reports commissioned by the FAI have been completed and the recommendations adopted, and also once it is satisfied all the necessary processes and controls are in place to ensure the FAI complies with its obligations to Sport Ireland.

Going back to the FAI’s most recent statement, the following line has been highlighted by many commentators, given the previous statements made by the FAI on this matter.

On 8 April, FAI President Donal Conway said in his statement: “We also advised that some recent comments made by the FAI did not accurately reflect the board’s level of awareness of the existence of the €100,000 issue in 2017.”

Just to reiterate, on 18 March an FAI statement said: “The board of the FAI has been kept fully informed in relation to this matter at all times.”

Today

After all the statements, today is the first day when we’ll actually get to hear from John Delaney and the FAI on this bridging loan and other matters of governance at the organisation.

Members of the Oireachtas – such as Noel Rock, Catherine Murphy and Ruth Coppinger, pressed Sport Ireland on the conduct of the FAI during last week’s hearing.

At one stage, Coppinger asked: “If you don’t regulate the FAI, who does?”

Rock said on Monday that the lack of clarity from the FAI regarding the bridging loan should result in Sport Ireland cutting the millions of euro in funding it gives to the FAI.

“We need to see clear and concise information regarding this matter and the matter of the loan from Mr Delaney to the Association,” he said.

From 9am onwards today, we will see if that is the case. 

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Sean Murray

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