FAI President confirms decision on John Delaney's new role was made after media queries on €100k loan

    Key points:
  • Former FAI CEO John Delaney has said he could not answer committee questions on the €100,000 loan to the FAI, citing legal advice
  • FAI president Donal Conway said a short term cash flow issue arose in April 2017
  • Mr Delaney issued a personal cheque for €100,000 which was cashed the next day to meet the bill from one unnamed contractor
  • Mr Conway said the FAI did break the rules by not informing Sport Ireland of the loan
  • FAI board not told about €100,000 loan for almost two years
  • Mr Conway confirmed a report recommending a new role for John Delaney was commissioned by the FAI only after media queries into a 2017 €100,000 loan.

A consultant's report recommending John Delaney be appointed Executive Vice President of the FAI was commissioned only after media queries into a 2017 €100,000 loan from him to his employer were submitted.

FAI President Donal Conway confirmed under questioning that the commissioning of the Jonathan Hall report which recommended the change of role for Mr Delaney occurred after the first query from Sunday Times in early March.

Under questioning from Fine Gael TD Noel Rock, it emerged that the FAI Board considered a "draft" of the Hall report before the final version was adopted. No fundamental changes were made between the draft version and the final version, Mr Conway said.

Mr Conway also confirmed the report adopted by the board on March 22, one day before the Gibraltar match, the night Mr Delaney resigned as CEO.

During the afternoon session of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Sport, there was stinging criticism of Mr Delaney and the FAI board over the failure to disclose the loan for 18 months.

“To the public, it looks like the board is a cartel, you are closing rank and you are not being honest with the public,” said Fianna Fáil's Transport and Sport spokesman Robert Troy.

“Since this morning you have been ambiguous, vague and selective. You are hiding behind the reports from Grant Thornton, Mazars. Can you not be honest with the public?”

Sinn Féin's Imelda Munster said Mr Delaney "has behaved disgracefully, he furnished a statement but refused to answer any questions. It is farcical and a disgrace."

Mr Delaney's refusal to answer questions was probed and Mr Conway said he knew as of yesterday that Mr Delaney was not going to answer any questions at committee.

Mr Conway said he was limited by advice as to what he could say but it was certainly not his desire to show any disrespect to members.

FAI President Donal Conway.
FAI President Donal Conway.

“It is not my intention to show any disrespect. What I can and can't answer is guided by advice. We all know the areas which we can and can't go into. If that is evasive, I have no option on that Deputy,” he said.

Despite a number of attempts to draw Mr Delaney into answering questions on the loan and his change of job, he stated that we would not be adding to the statement, he read to the committee this morning.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy accused the board of being “very passive” in not being aware of being made aware of the €100,000 until March of this year.

FAI Honorary Treasurer Eddie Murray said he was less than happy that as the person who signed off on the accounts not to have been informed of it.

"I found it unsatisfactory, to say the least,” he said.

When asked to clarify as to why Mr Delaney, Mr Murray and a third board member did not inform their colleagues of the loan, Mr Conway said he assumed there must have been an understanding that there was no requirement to report the matter.

Kerry TD, Michael Healy-Rae, who was not a committee member, but who was allowed to speak, drew criticism after he lavished praise on Mr Delaney and failed to ask any questions.

He said John Delaney is guilty only of being passionate about football, will get the mother of all welcomes when he comes to Kerry and says his track record is second to none.

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger branded Mr Healy-Rae “a joke”.

Earlier: FAI board not told about bridging loan for two years; John Delaney unable to answer questions on legal advice

The board of the Football Association of Ireland was not told for almost two years of the €100,000 interest-free loan from its former CEO John Delaney, it has been confirmed.

At a tense and somewhat farcical hearing of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Sport, TDs and Senators were told that in April 2017, an immediate cash flow issue arose which needed to be resolved “within a matter of a few hours”.

An internal three-person finance committee which included Mr Delaney discussed the fact that cheques issued by the FAI, were they to be presented for cashing, could cause the organisation to exhaust its funds, including its €1.5 million overdraft facility with Bank of Ireland.

FAI President Donal Conway confirmed to committee members that the matter of the €100,000 loan was only disclosed to the board in early March 2019 when queries from the Sunday Times about it were received.

Mr Conway read into the record evidence relating to the €100,000 loan and confirmed that on April 25th 2017, a short term cash flow issue arose.

He said FAI board members discussed that a potential situation arose whereby there may have been insufficient funds in the body's accounts to meet cheques that had been issued.

Mr Delaney issued a personal cheque for the amount of €100,000 which was cashed the next day to meet the bill from one unnamed contractor.

Mr Delaney was repaid a short time later and it was confirmed that no documents related to the loan existed, no interest was levied or paid.

Mr Conway said the board accepts the situation “was exceptional”.

Former FAI Chief Executive John Delaney has said he “regrets the embarrassment” caused by the granting of a €100,000 loan by him to the organisation in 2017.

Giving his opening statement after several delays at the Oireachtas Sports Committee, Mr Delaney spelt out the circumstances as to how he came to cut the cheque making clear that the FAI had all but exhausted its €1.5 overdraft with Bank of Ireland on April 25, 2017.

Attending a meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Sport at Dáil Éireann in Dublin are from left, FAI President Donal Conway, FAI Interim Chief Executive Rea Walshe, and FAI Executive Vice President John Delaney. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Attending a meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Sport at Dáil Éireann in Dublin are from left, FAI President Donal Conway, FAI Interim Chief Executive Rea Walshe, and FAI Executive Vice President John Delaney. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

As a result, cheques issued by the FAI may not be fully met, and as the body only had a few hours to resolve the issue, Mr Delaney decided to issue the cheque.

He demanded that the cheque only be lodged if needed and was told by the FAI's director of finance that it was needed to meet a payment to a third-party creditor the next day, April 26, 2017.

Mr Delaney made it clear that the €100,000 payment was not made known to the FAI board for 18 months until media queries were lodged with the organisation in March 2019.

Donal Conway, FAI President, confirmed that while some members of the board were aware of the payment, the board was not formally informed until Mr Delaney made it known that queries from the Sunday Times newspaper had been received about it.

Mr Delaney told committee members that beyond his statement, on legal advice, he was not in a position to answer any further questions.

He also delivered a warning to committee members that given some of them have made highly prejudicial comments and the recent Kerins judgement, “I would ask committee respect my position I cannot answer any further questions.”

Mr Delaney said he was only able to answer questions in relation to his current role as Executive Vice President. A short time later, committee member Ruth Coppinger said they were "being gagged" because of the Kerins ruling, describing the hearing as a "frustrating process".

Earlier: Former FAI Chief Executive John Delaney has said he “regrets the embarrassment” caused by the granting of a €100,000 loan by him to the organisation in 2017.

Giving his opening statement after several delays at the Oireachtas Sports Committee, Mr Delaney spelt out the circumstances as to how he came to cut the cheque making clear that the FAI had all but exhausted its €1.5 overdraft with Bank of Ireland on April 25, 2017.

As a result, cheques issued by the FAI may not be fully met, and as the body only had a few hours to resolve the issue, Mr Delaney decided to issue the cheque.

He demanded that the cheque only be lodged if needed and was told by the FAI's director of finance that it was needed to meet a payment to a third-party creditor the next day, April 26, 2017.

Mr Delaney made it clear that the €100,000 payment was not made known to the FAI board for 18 months until media queries were lodged with the organisation in March 2019.

Donal Conway, FAI President, confirmed that while some members of the board were aware of the payment, the board was not formally informed until Mr Delaney made it known that queries from the Sunday Times newspaper had been received about it.

Mr Delaney told committee members that beyond his statement, on legal advice he was not in a position to answer any further questions.

He also delivered a warning to committee members that given some of them have made highly prejudicial comments and the recent Kerins judgement, “I would ask committee respect my position I cannot answer any further questions.”

Former FAI chief executive John Delaney with Director of Competitions Fran Gavin (red tie) on their way into an Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. Picture: Leah Farrell/Rollngnews.ie
Former FAI chief executive John Delaney with Director of Competitions Fran Gavin (red tie) on their way into an Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. Picture: Leah Farrell/Rollngnews.ie

Mr Delaney said he was only able to answer questions in relation to his current role as Executive Vice President.

Mr Delaney said he is "truly saddened" that Sport Ireland saw fit to withdraw funding from the FAI.

Before he spoke, Committee chairman Fergus O'Dowd gave voice to the depth of frustration felt by committee members at the lateness of the arrival of Mr Delaney's statement.

The committee hearing continues.

Earlier: €100k loan to FAI was to overcome short-term cash flow issues, Oireachtas committee told

A €100,000 interest-free loan was given by John Delaney to the FAI in April 2017 to overcome short-term cash flow issues, the Oireachtas Sports Committee has heard.

In somewhat farcical scenes this morning, the committee was forced twice into private session as both FAI President Donal Conway and Mr Delaney presented new evidence which had not been given to the committee in advance, as is the norm.

Following the first break, Mr Conway read into the record evidence relating to the €100,000 loan and confirmed that on April 25, 2017, a short term cash flow issue arose.

He said FAI board members discussed that a potential situation arose whereby there may have been insufficient funds in the body's accounts to meet cheques that had been issued.

Mr Delaney issued a personal cheque for the amount of €100,000 which was cashed the next day to meet the bill from one unnamed contractor.

Mr Delaney was repaid a short time later and it was confirmed that no documents related to the loan existed, no interest was levied or paid.

Mr Conway said the board accepts the situation “was exceptional”.

He also confirmed that the FAI has also advised Sport Ireland that recent public comments made by the FAI did not accurately reflect the Board’s level of awareness of the existence of the €100,000 payment to the Association in 2017.

In his opening statement, he also confirmed that the FAI did break the rules by not informing Sport Ireland of the loan.

“We acknowledge that certain circumstances arose in April 2017 which were not reported to Sport Ireland. We will work with Sport Ireland in order to establish a process to ensure the FAI are, in future, fully compliant with clause 4.3,” he said.

He said Sport Ireland has always supported the FAI and understands the cyclical nature of our funding.

Mr Conway added that Sport is a very different business to others. The qualification stage process of football is unique. Financial fluctuations are the norm and cash flow is often irregular.

“The disappointment of the failure of the men’s senior team to qualify for World Cup 2018 had a major impact on match attendance and, subsequently, cash flow,” he said.

FAI executive vice-president John Delaney before his appearance before an Oireachtas committee this morning. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy.
FAI executive vice-president John Delaney before his appearance before an Oireachtas committee this morning. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy.

Earlier: Oireachtas committee questioning FAI and Delaney over loan

A delegation from the FAI, including former chief executive John Delaney, is appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport today.

Mr Delaney is being questioned on the circumstances of a €100,000 loan from him to the body in 2017.

The hearing comes after State funding to the FAI was suspended yesterday.

Sport Ireland withdrew commitment for €1.35m the FAI admitted it broke the rules by not disclosing the alleged bridging loan.

This morning's committee is focusing on issues of governance and finance at the soccer body.

The hearing will attempt to decipher the exact terms of the loan and what the FAI board knew about it.

Committee chairman Fergus O’Dowd said the hearing will "be fair, focused, but robust and the questions will be in line with the clear remit of the committee".

Additional reporting by Digital Desk staff

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