Minister tells committee FAI sought €18m 'bailout' from the State

Minister tells committee FAI sought €18m 'bailout' from the State

Update: Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross said that, at a meeting earlier this week between himself and the FAI, the association had arrived looking for a State “bailout” of €18m.

Speaking at the Oireachtas committee hearing for his department this morning, Minister Ross said that the meeting, details of which the attending members of the FAI declined to divulge in its aftermath, had been a “sobering” experience.

Asked directly what the figure requested had been, Mr Ross replied “they looked for various scenarios, and €18 million as a possibility”.

“That’s what they looked for, or alternatively a guarantee of that, but they named that figure,” he said, adding that the request had been “shocking”.

“We made it absolutely clear to them that they would not be getting a bailout, that KOSI had said they would not be getting any funding, and that any further discussion was pointless,” Mr Ross said.

He said he could not comment as to whether or not the witholding of that funding had left the FAI unviable, but acknowledged the “precarious” position the association appears to be in.

The representative body for Irish soccer has faced a tumultuous nine months after it first emerged that former chief executive John Delaney had furnished the association with a temporary “bridging” loan for €100,000 in 2017.

The following months saw Delaney eventually cut ties with the association with a payoff worth €462,000, while the FAI’s restated accounts for 2017 and 2018 released earlier this month revealed that the body has liabilities of €55m.

Auditors Deloitte pointedly declined earlier this month to affirm the association as a going concern.

Committee members condemn FAI decision to stay away from hearing.

Earlier, the decision by the FAI not to appear before the committee for a second time was condemned as “an insult” by Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien.

Responding to a letter from the association to the committee in which it said it could not appear at the hearing as getting its financial and appointment issues in order is its top priority, TD Ruth Coppinger said the committee “doesn’t have patience and understanding” for that decision.

She said it was essential that the FAI appear before the committee before the end of next month, before current president Donal Conway steps down from his role.

“That meeting should be before the tenure of Mr Conway ends, because he was there when many of the issues take place,” Ms Coppinger said.

Earlier: FAI have 'steep mountain to climb' before Department restores its funding, says Minister

The Sports Minister Shane Ross has said he will not allow a single cent to go to the FAI until weaknesses in the organisation's corporate governance have been addressed.

Mr Ross has confirmed a scheme to allow funding to go directly to development officers has been put in place to safeguard the development of the game at grassroots level.

In an opening statement to the Oireachtas Committee on Sport he says there is a steep mountain to climb before funding can be restored to the FAI.

Mr Ross said: "The Governance Review Group made many recommendations, which were all accepted by the FAI. As the Committee will be aware, one of the most important recommendations was to appoint an independent Chair and three other independent directors.

"It is a source of great and ongoing frustration to me that, five months later, these independent directors have not yet been appointed.

I have not received a satisfactory explanation as to why this has not yet been completed. This should have been one of the first things the FAI did, in order to start the process of restoring trust in the association. Instead, we find ourselves approaching the end of the year, still waiting for these vital appointments.

"I have been advised that the appointments will take place in the very near future. Thereafter, the FAI should move without delay to launch a robust, competitive process to recruit a new independent chief executive. "

He said the KOSI report has made it clear the organisation is not in a fit state to receive public money.

Minister tells committee FAI sought €18m 'bailout' from the State

The Minister said: "Minister Griffin and I made it clear to the FAI that we cannot and will not provide them with tax payers’ money. The KOSI Report makes it clear that the association is not in a fit state to receive public funds and we must respect that.

"That report is with An Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. On foot of requests from this Committee for either the report in full or even possibly a redacted version, I have again taken legal advice from my Department’s Legal Advisor and also from the Attorney General.

"They have insisted that it would be unlawful for me to furnish the Committee with a copy of the report.

"I can confirm, and I am somewhat relieved to confirm, to the Committee that the KOSI auditors found that state funding given to the FAI was expended for the purposes it was given."

He added that KOSI's auditors "acknowledge that some steps have been taken to address shortcomings, but there is a steep mountain to climb before we can reinstate funding to the FAI".

He continued by saying that they will continue to support "the clubs, players and coaches at the heart of Irish grassroots soccer".

He said: "Firstly, through Sport Ireland, we have developed a scheme to support the players on the Women’s National Team. This arrangement will enable us to continue to support the players as they seek to clinch qualification for the Women’s EURO 2020, while assuring taxpayers that funding will be safeguarded.

"I am pleased to be able to reveal to the Committee today that Sport Ireland has put together a similar scheme to deliver support for the youth field sports programme which has been the primary vehicle for public funding for the development of soccer.

This funding will ensure continued support for 60 development officers throughout the country and the programmes that they deliver. This scheme will begin next month, and if necessary will deliver funding of €2.3m to the development officers through 2020.

"There has been no break in these programmes, notwithstanding the suspension of Sport Ireland funding, and we can confirm today that there will be no break in these programmes."

The FAI has already confirmed it will not attend today's Oireachtas committee hearing.

Accounts published earlier this month revealed that the association's liabilities stand at over €55m.

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