Sports Minister Shane Ross has admitted asking ex-Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney for tickets to a crunch Europa League soccer final — despite insisting he paid for the seats himself.
Mr Ross is the latest politician to be embroiled in an FAI tickets access controversy just a week after making fresh calls for transparency throughout the soccer body.
A report in yesterday’s Sunday Times said Mr Ross texted Mr Delaney in 2017 asking for match tickets for the Europa League final in Stockholm, Sweden, between Manchester United and Ajax on May 24, 2017.
Mr Delaney subsequently provided Mr Ross with the tickets for the game — which Mr Ross was attending in a private capacity — with the sports minister subsequently paying for the seats by cheque.
In the subsequent two years, Mr Delaney and the FAI became embroiled in a series of controversies, which ultimately led to the decision for him to “step aside” from his role earlier this year pending a review.
The revelations included a €100,000 loan he gave to the FAI to cover a cash shortfall in 2017, further payments by the FAI for former workers, and other financial issues.
However, concerns have also been raised politicians were too close to senior FAI officials to intervene in questions surrounding the association at an earlier stage.
In addition to Mr Ross’s tickets request, Fine Gael TD Noel Rock — who has also been at the forefront of demands for FAI financial transparency — was this year forced to clarify similar ticket request questions.
The FAI faces an in-depth review of its governance and financial structures in the wake of a series of issues affecting the organisation.
The situation has led to the departure of Mr Delaney and plans for the removal of board members, amid the Government’s decision earlier this year to suspend all capital funding until genuine root and branch reforms are made.
At the height of the initial concerns over Mr Delaney’s €100,000 FAI loan, about which he took a court case in a bid to prevent the deal becoming public, the ex-FAI chief executive moved into a newly created vice-president role.
He subsequently went on voluntary gardening leave while the FAI, Sports Ireland and Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement investigations take place.