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Jonathan Hill. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
saying sorry

FAI CEO Jonathan Hill 'apologises unreservedly' to staff over pay revelations

State funding to the FAI has been suspended, after it emerged the FAI overpaid their CEO to the tune of €20,000 in 2022.

FAI CEO JONATHAN Hill has issued an apology to staff at the Association, a week on from the revelation that State funding has been suspended over issues relating to his pay in 2022.  

In an email to staff, seen by The 42, Hill said he regretted that staff learned of the issue in the media, saying “this is wholly unfair for you as FAI employees and for this I apologise unreservedly”. 

It emerged last Friday that Sport Ireland had withdrawn funding to the debt-ridden football body as they identified a potential breach of the State’s bailout deal [MOU] with the FAI back in 2020.

The terms of the agreement capped the CEO’s remuneration at no higher than that of a secretary general of a government department, but a Sport Ireland audit found that Hill was paid €20,000 too much in 2022, via benefit in kind on travel expenses and money paid in lieu of holiday leave not taken. The latter is not permitted under the FAI employee handbook. 

Hill has since repaid the money and the FAI insist these issues have been addressed. Hill has paid his accommodation and travel expenses directly since the start of this year. The FAI board met on Wednesday to discuss the controversy, after which they issued a statement saying they regret what happened. 

Hill has since followed up with a circular to all FAI staff, in which he apologised and explained the issues relating to his travel expenses and the payment in lieu of holiday leave not taken. 

“Firstly that of Benefit In Kind tax owed on my personal travel and accommodation across 2022,” reads Hill’s email. “The audit process identified an underpayment against the tax on those expenses which has now been reviewed in detail internally and with Sport Ireland and I have paid the balance due in full. Some in the media continue to comment on the fact that my home and family remain in the UK and I want to clarify and confirm that I have been paying all personal travel and accommodation expenses directly since the start of 2023.

“Secondly, the issue of payment in lieu of holiday not taken – a payment which was made in good faith by the Association to reflect what it felt were “exceptional circumstances” but which, in hindsight, was neither right in the context of our remuneration policy or indeed in the context of the MOU where we are working so hard to comply with all of the many recommendations. Again, I apologise unreservedly for my part in this error and the negativity and unwanted noise this has caused. I can confirm I have fully accepted the findings of the audit and Board review and have repaid the full amount to the Association.” 

Hill told staff he is travelling to Amsterdam for tomorrow’s Euro 2024 qualifier against the Netherlands, will return to Dublin for the women’s FAI Cup final on Sunday, and then will be present at the FAI offices to answer staff questions. 

You can read the full email below:

Re: A Message for All Staff 

Dear All,

Can I start by saying a huge thank you to everyone involved in the delivery of a wonderful and historic day at the Aviva Stadium last Sunday for the Men’s FAI Cup Final. It was a timely reminder of the progress being made within the LOI and across football in Ireland as a whole.

You will be aware of wider issues around the Association that have been reported in the media over the last few days and which the Board has addressed in the message sent yesterday afternoon.

I want to put on record my sincere regret that you heard this first via the media, especially at a point where we should all be celebrating our Association’s achievements and progress. This is wholly unfair for you as FAI employees and for this I apologise unreservedly.

Ideally, I would have addressed the specific issues earlier in the week but it was appropriate and right to respect the timing of the Board meeting and to allow the Board to discuss and respond to everything in full. There are two key areas I can now clarify for you:

  • Firstly that of Benefit In Kind tax owed on my personal travel and accommodation across 2022. The audit process identified an underpayment against the tax on those expenses which has now been reviewed in detail internally and with Sport Ireland and I have paid the balance due in full. Some in the media continue to comment on the fact that my home and family remain in the UK and I want to clarify and confirm that I have been paying all personal travel and accommodation expenses directly since the start of 2023.
  • Secondly, the issue of payment in lieu of holiday not taken – a payment which was made in good faith by the Association to reflect what it felt were “exceptional circumstances” but which, in hindsight, was neither right in the context of our remuneration policy or indeed in the context of the MOU where we are working so hard to comply with all of the many recommendations. Again, I apologise unreservedly for my part in this error and the negativity and unwanted noise this has caused. I can confirm I have fully accepted the findings of the audit and Board review and have repaid the full amount to the Association.

I fully appreciate that events of the last few days have impacted efforts to deliver on one of our core objectives, that of rebuilding trust in the Association. I am acutely aware of how much work has gone into that task over the last three years and I remain immensely proud of our collective progress. The Board has noted that important learnings have been made and that these will be adopted within organisational procedure accordingly.

I remain absolutely committed, as do the leadership of the Association at both Board and SLT level, to address the challenges and opportunities ahead of us as we continue to work towards many key objectives such as gender representation on the Board and the finalisation of all MOU recommendations which we are committed to doing and which reflect the stated and shared aims of Minister Byrne in his recent comments.

I will be travelling to Amsterdam to support the men’s team in their game against the Netherlands this weekend and will then attend the Women’s FAI Cup Final on Sunday and look forward to seeing some of you there. I will be available in the office next week to discuss all the above and indeed any other questions, comments or concerns that you may have.

Thank you again for all your hard work and dedication. There is so much positive progress in Irish football and I give you my commitment to continue to support, drive and lead that ongoing journey. We have made great strides together and nothing is more important than the well-being of our FAI team as we continue fostering and building the game we all love.

With best wishes

Jonathan

Written by Gavin Cooney and posted on the42.ie

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