The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and ex-chief executive John Delaney must clarify today the exact circumstances of a €100,000 loan from him to the body in 2017, as State funding to it has been dramatically suspended.
The decision to withhold funding underscores the damage done to public confidence in the FAI, members of the Oireachtas sport committee have said ahead of a key hearing today.
Sport Ireland, which controls State funding to sporting bodies, withdrew commitment for €1.35m — half of its yearly allocation — after the FAI admitted it broke the rules by not disclosing the alleged bridging loan.
An FAI delegation including Mr Delaney faces a much-anticipated grilling in front of the committee, which will focus on issues of governance and finance at the soccer body.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, committee chairman Fergus O’Dowd said the funding cut “puts greater pressure” on the FAI to change its corporate governance structures which he said are of “grave concern” to everyone.
“The hearing will be fair, focused, but robust and the questions will be in line with the clear remit of the committee,” he said.
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said the FAI statement on Monday, which alluded to earlier statements not accurately reflecting the board’s view of the €100,000 loan, raises more questions than answers.
“It is not at all clear what sight the board had in relation to this payment,” said Ms Murphy. “We need to get to the bottom of these significant issues. The admission they did not comply with the rules gave Sport Ireland no choice but to act.”
Fine Gael TD Noel Rock, who has already called for Mr Delaney to resign, said he hoped the FAI will take the opportunity of the hearing to begin the process to begin to rebuild its “incredibly damaged credibility”.
Confirming its decision to put the funding on hold, Sport Ireland said it did so “in light of an acknowledgement by the FAI in its written opening statement to the joint Oireachtas committee that in 2017 the FAI did not comply with clause 4.3 of Sport Ireland’s terms and conditions of grant approval”.
It said that, in making the decision to suspend and withhold funding, the board of Sport Ireland notes that the FAI has already been paid 50% of its 2019 funding to date and some positive steps taken by the FAI in recent days.
Responding to the decision of Sport Ireland to withhold funding, FAI president Donal Conway said it was “unfortunate” that such a decision was necessary.
“The Board of the Football Association of Ireland notes the decision of Sport Ireland to suspend and withhold the balance of funding due in 2019, as conveyed by letter this afternoon,” said Mr Conway. “It is unfortunate that Sport Ireland now feel compelled to take this action in the wake of recent events.”