FAI not facing financial armageddon says Ross as Committee hears John Delaney still on FAI payroll

Latest: Shane Ross has denied the FAI is facing financial armageddon.

He was speaking as the board of the FAI confirmed it will step down after a review of governance.

Further financial investigations will take place after auditors reported the organisation was not properly keeping accounts.

An Oireachtas Committee has also heard John Delaney is still on the FAI payroll and is effectively on gardening leave.

Amid questions about FAI finances Sports Minister Shane Ross has denied the organisation is facing armageddon.

"I have no reason to believe that there is anything as dramatic as that going on," said Minister Ross.

Meanwhile, former Republic of Ireland international Niall Quinn says "the light has turned green" when it comes to reforming and regaining trust in the FAI.

He added that it represents a great opportunity to now focus on improving the grassroots structures of football in Ireland.

"Like any great organisation or business that needs to reboot itself and reignite itself, it's going to take time," said the former striker.

It's going to take brilliant people, dynamic people, but again it needs the League of Ireland and the professional game at the very top of the agenda.

"Everything else can pyramid down below that and we can remove the fragmented set-up and structures of football in this country."

Meanwhile, former Republic of Ireland international Niall Quinn has said the intended resignation of the FAI board represents a tremendous opportunity to improve the game.

"Appointing executives whose role it will be is to be as dynamic as an incoming CEO ... to seize the opportunity to reach new levels of success ... and make us all feel great about football again."

Varadkar: Investigation needed to restore confidence in FAI

Earlier: The Taoiseach has said an investigation into the financial affairs of the Football Association of Ireland needs to be conducted.

Leo Varadkar said the Government shared the concerns of taxpayers and the anger of football fans over the revelations about how the FAI has been run in recent years.

It comes as the entire board of the FAI indicated they will step down.

The organisation has been under fire since it emerged that ex-chief executive John Delaney provided a bridging loan in April 2017 to prevent it exceeding its €1.5 million bank overdraft.

Mr Delaney has insisted he acted in the best interests of the game

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil on Tuesday: “Investigations are necessary – investigations by Sport Ireland – into the accounts and finances of FAI and it also may be necessary for the ODCE (Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement) to carry out investigations under company law.

“The objective must be to restore confidence in how the FAI is being run.”

The matter was discussed by Cabinet ministers on Tuesday morning.

Mr Varadkar was responding to calls from opposition leader Micheál Martin for an audit of the FAI before Government funding is restored.

The Fianna Fáil leader said many people at ground level were “extremely angry” and that people had been denied an open and straightforward explanation about the loan.

Mr Varadkar agreed with Mr Martin “that Sports Ireland needs to carry out an investigation in the form of a robust, independent audit of the FAI’s finances in recent years”.

Mr Varadkar said about 5% of the FAI’s funding came from Government agencies. It was suspended by Sport Ireland last week following the revelations.

The Taoiseach said it could not be restated “until the accounting problems, the financial irregularities and the corporate governance problems in the FAI are put right”.- Press Association

‘Clearly time for a regime change’, says Ross as FAI board to step down

Update 1.50pm: The FAI's entire board has agreed to step down due to the financial furore engulfing the soccer organisation.

Sports Minister Shane Ross said the FAI has "indicated that the board will step down", with an emergency general meeting in July or an extraordinary general meeting before that date.

In his opening statement to the Oireachtas sports committee this afternoon, Mr Ross said the "very fluid" situation surrounding the FAI has seen further developments this morning.

Speaking just moments after it emerged that the FAI's official auditor's Deloitte have written to the Companies Registration Office to inform it the FAI's accounts are not being properly kept, Mr Ross dropped the bombshell that the FAI board has agreed to resign.

Saying "now is the time for regime change", Mr Ross said FAI president Donal Conway wrote to him this morning confirming the board will step down.

Mr Ross said while the FAI has suggested this should happen after an emergency general meeting in July, he wants to see this happen sooner and potentially at an extraordinary general meeting in the coming weeks.

Mr Ross said: “I welcome that the FAI is engaging with Sport Ireland in a process, and that they have now indicated that the board will step down. I believe that an EGM should be called before the July date, as soon as the active investigations have been concluded, to facilitate a transition to a new board by way of transparent elections.

Mr Ross has referred to a "shamobolic" appearance by the FAI at he committed last week "at which even the most basic questions went unanswered".

He added: “I am pleased to confirm to the committee that the FAI will take “decisive action” on the issue.

He proceeded to read a letter he had received from the FAI, where the organisation apologised for any embarrassment its appearance at the committee last week had caused.

The letter, from FAI president Donal Conway, stated that "in relation to the Board structure, we have engaged with Sport Ireland in relation to both membership of and terms of reference for a new Governance Group which will, amongst other issues, bring forward proposals for the restructuring of the Board and other governance requirements."

The letter adds that it is the FAI's intention that "recommendations in relation to re-structuring the board will be brought to the membership for their consideration" in July.

"At that point, when a new structure has been put in place, it is the intention that the existing Board will step down to allow for a new Board to be constituted in the interests of football."

Mr Ross welcomed that the FAI board "have now indicated that the board will step down" and said he believes "an EGM should be called before the July date, as soon as the active investigations have been concluded, to facilitate a transition to a new board by way of transparent elections."

He also added that the FAI will receive "no further Government funding" until "we see real change and reform in the association’s corporate governance, and until we have credible answers."

Minister Ross said that it is "is quite the crisis for the FAI" but added it is an "opportunity to develop an inclusive vision for the development of soccer in Ireland".

He said that it is a "long overdue conversation" that he and Minister for State for Sport Brendan Griffin "will facilitate".

Sport Ireland chair John Treacy has confirmed it will launch a "full audit" of the FAI regardless of any reforms in the soccer body.

John Treacy
John Treacy

Mr Treacy said the audit was "agreed last night" with FAI officials.

In his original statement to the Oireachtas sports committee, Mr Treacy threatened the audit would be imposed if Sport Ireland felt FAI-funded reviews failed to go far enough.

However, this afternoon, he said this "full audit" will take place regardless of what the FAI does next.

Mr Treacey added that: "Sport Ireland is very concerned about FAI adherence to appropriate financial controls.

"Sport Ireland issued a formal response on April 11. As outlined, the Sport Ireland Act confers considerable authority in Sport Ireland, investing substantial amounts of public funding into sport.

"At our meeting on April 9, the board of Sport Ireland unanimously decided to withhold funding from FAI, this was not a decision we took lightly, but a last resort and used reluctantly."

Mr Treacy added: "In light of this clear acknowledgement to withhold funding, in accordance with Clause 11 of the terms and conditions of the Sport Ireland Act, we made this decision.

"We are aware that 50% of youth funding had been paid to FAI already, and the next payment is due in the third quarter of this year. The board outlined that we're of the clear view that this interim period should be used by the FAI to take whatever action is required to restore funding.

"Depending on what emerges from the Mazars and Grant Thornton reviews, as per terms and conditions of grant approval, we have agreed with FAI that a full audit will be carried out - this was agreed at a meeting last night," Mr Treacy added.

"This audit will be as broad and extensive as necessary, including internal financial controls and management, and that general governance are at a sufficient standard to restore funding."

Catherine Murphy
Catherine Murphy

Mr Treacy confirmed that the last time funding was suspended by Sport Ireland it took nine months for it to be restored.

He noted in response to Catherine Murphy that the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement will also now do its own full audit.

Shane Ross said he does not have control over the FAI board, when Catherine Murphy noted even though concerns had previously been flagged, his department still gave money to the FAI.

"We have made representations to the FAI, in accordance with their corporate governance to indicate we weren't totally satisfied what was happening," Mr Ross replied.

"We were constantly making it clear what we thought of their corporate governance in regards to their independence and women in sport, and longevity of people on the board that worried us, we regret a lot of things that happened."

More to follow

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