FAI board member John Earley is pleading with Minister Shane Ross not to punish Irish football for the mistakes of the past.
Sport Ireland’s funding to the FAI and clubs is currently suspended pending the implementation of governance reforms. Minister Ross is at odds with the author of the governance report, Aidan Horan, by disagreeing with a recommendation for two directors to remain on the board.
Earley was four years at the top table until he resigned five weeks ago. He is now back on the board, along with president Donal Conway, as the only survivors from the turmoil that has engulfed the FAI since March.
That pair, along with six fresh faces elected at Saturday’s AGM, will soon be joined by four independent directors to complete the new 12-person board.
Revelations in recent months about former CEO John Delaney’s €100,000 loan to his employers and an enhanced loyalty package bumping up his annual salary to almost €700,000 have caused shock across Irish football.
Tipperary native Earley, however, claims both of these deals were concealed from the full board. Delaney first referred to the loan in board meetings in early March after receiving queries from The Sunday Times.
“I wasn’t aware about any of those deals,” said Earley, chairman of the Schoolboys Football Association of Ireland (SFAI), which comprises of 120,000 underage players.
“The sector I represent is not responsible for the situation the FAI finds itself in. Minister Ross is living in cloud-cuckoo land if he thinks the breakdown was caused by the schoolboys sector. I wasn’t afraid to ask the questions during my time on the board. Now we’re being penalised by grants being suspended. Leagues and clubs badly need State aid because we could never survive alone off what the FAI give us.”
Earley said his attempts to set up a meeting with Minister Ross ahead of the AGM were rebuffed.
Some of the €2.9m annual grant from Sport Ireland, currently frozen, is earmarked for the 32 schoolboy leagues.
“Our annual portion of €100,000 is being withheld,” said Earley. “Our leagues rely on that money to pay basic bills that keeps kids playing the game.”
Major projects such as the Dalymount Park redevelopment and construction of a Munster football academy in Glanmire have also been halted due to the Government’s stance.
It remains to be seen whether the continuing presence of Conway, and to a lesser extent Earley, on the board will see the hands of Ross and his Cabinet stay in their pockets later this year.
The Minister says he will be interested in viewing the findings from investigations into the FAI’s finances by Mazars and Kosi. Initial reports are due back next month.