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Taoiseach: 'Government can't continue funding the FAI unless it's confident the organisation is run properly'

In an interview with TheJournal.ie this evening, the Taoiseach stopped short of stating there should be a clear out of the entire Board

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said the government can’t continue to fund the FAI unless it is confident the organisation is being run properly. 

His comments come as John Delaney offers to step aside from the FAI while an independent investigation takes place into issues of concern to the Board.

Honorary Secretary Michael Cody and Honorary Treasurer Eddie Murray have also both voluntarily resigned from the Board.

In a wide-ranging interview with the TheJournal.ie this evening, the Taoiseach said: 

“We can’t continue to commit millions of euro of taxpayers’ money unless we are confident that the organisation is being run properly, and it is obeying company law and corporate governance rules and all those things you’d expect the organisation to do.

“Sport Ireland, which is the government body in which we fund sport, will be doing an investigation and providing the FAI can get its affairs in order, will be able to restore funding and that is where we want to be.”

Taxpayers’ money 

Sport Ireland decided to suspend and withhold future funding to the FAI last week, while this past week has also seen the PFAI and a number of supporters’ groups call for reform, while two of the association’s sponsors — Three and New Balance — called upon the FAI to adopt the recommendations of ongoing external reviews.

Sport Ireland will tomorrow tell an Oireachtas Committee that they will not rule out a wide-scale, independent audit of the FAI as they wait for the completion of the ongoing Mazars and Grant Thornton reviews. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie today, Varadkar again criticised the performance of Delaney in the Oireachtas Sport Committee last week, stating that the general public, taxpayers, and football fans “would have liked to hear him answer some of the questions that are still unanswered”.

What he did was act within his legal rights – he is not a public servant, he is not a government employee, he is not accountable to the Oireachtas – and he acted within his legal rights in saying that he is accountable to other bodies, but I think from the view of the general public, the taxpayer, football fans, they would like to hear the answers to some questions and I know that is still the case.

Varadkar said the funding from government to the FAI isn’t for the commercial element of the organisation, stating that it should be used for local clubs, and for getting more women and young people into sport. 

He added that he wants to see that funding is restored to the organisation.  

Clearing out the entire Board

The Taoiseach stopped short of stating that there should be a clear out of the entire Board of the FAI, stating that it is a matter for its members. 

However, he added: 

I know some of the members of the Board are relatively new, so I would be disinclined to tar everyone with the one brush. One thing you can do when you replace an entire Board is you can create a new problem, because you have a new board of 15 people with no experience or memory of the organisation.
Often what you’ll do in that kind of situation is maybe keep half the board and bring in new pople to strengthen it. But again, that is really a call for members of the FAI rather than government. 

When asked about Delaney stepping down, the Taoiseach said it was a matter for Delaney and for the Board to decide upon, rather than government. 

Delaney stepping down follows a series of turbulent weeks in the public eye for the FAI, which began when the Sunday Times reported that Delaney had given a cheque of €100,000 to the organisation in 2017.

The FAI, in a series of statements, said it was a bridging loan after it experienced a short-term cash flow issue.

Appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport last week, Delaney refused to answer questions about the €100,000 loan and said he was precluded from doing so on legal advice. This led to criticism from some members of the committee, including Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster who accused Delaney of acting “disgracefully”. 

Video and editing by Nicky Ryan

Read more from TheJournal.ie’s interview with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at midnight tonight where he talks Brexit, medicinal cannabis, Peter Casey and the European elections. 

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