The Football Association of Ireland has said it will make whatever changes to its board demanded in order to have its State funding reinstated.
FAI president Donal Conway made the statement during a marathon eight-hour hearing of the joint Oireachtas sport committee relating to the undisclosed €100,000 loan from ex-CEO John Delaney to the organisation.
During lengthy, testy, and sometimes farcical hearings, the FAI delegation was branded “a disgrace” and accused of acting like “a cartel” by angry committee members, particularly over Mr Delaney’s refusal to answer questions on the loan.
“On legal advice, I am precluded from making any further comments at this hearing in relation to the finances of the association or my former role as CEO, or on the €100,000 payment, either directly or indirectly,” Mr Delaney said.
But Mr Conway said should board changes be required then they will happen in order to see State funding restored.
Mr Conway said:
We will not jeopardise Sport Council funding, so we will take whatever actions we have to take.
In a key development, the board of the Football Association of Ireland was not told for almost two years of the €100,000 interest-free loan from Mr Delaney in April 2017.
TDs and senators were told an immediate cashflow issue arose which needed to be resolved immediately.
“As the matter was pressing and we only had a few hours to resolve the potential issues that would arise if the bank overdraft limit was exceeded, as a precautionary measure and to assist the FAI, I wrote a cheque for €100,000 from my personal account to the FAI,” Mr Delaney said.
An internal three-person finance committee which included Mr Delaney discussed the fact that cheques issued by the FAI — were they to be presented for cashing — could cause the organisation to exhaust its funds, including its €1.5m overdraft facility with Bank of Ireland.
However, the matter was not brought to the full board nor recorded in the 2017 annual accounts, a matter that is now under investigation by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.
Mr Conway confirmed to committee members that the matter of the €100,000 loan was only disclosed to the board in early March 2019, when queries from The Sunday Times about it were received.
FAI honorary treasurer Eddie Murray let it be known that he was less than happy to be kept in the dark about the loan, as the man who officially signs off on the organisation’s accounts.
“I found it unsatisfactory to say the least,” he said.
It also emerged that a consultant’s report recommending Mr Delaney be appointed executive vice president of the FAI was only commissioned after media queries into a 2017 €100,000 loan from him to his employer were submitted.
Mr Conway confirmed under questioning that the commissioning of the Jonathan Hall report, which recommended the change of role for Mr Delaney, occurred after the first query from The Sunday Times in early March.
Members of the committee reacted angrily to the quality of the engagement with the FAI.
“To the public, it looks like the board is a cartel, you are closing rank and you are not being honest with the public,” said Fianna Fáil’s transport and sport spokesman Robert Troy.
Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger hit out at the highly restricted hearing and the failure of the FAI to co-operate fully.
“I think today’s proceedings are going to reaffirm people’s cynicism about the political process and the FAI. You’ve given the most minimal answers. Mr Delaney is here physically but it’s Hamlet without the Prince. This has been very frustrating for a lot of people and changes have to be made,” she said.
Sinn Féin’s Imelda Munster said Mr Delaney “has behaved disgracefully, he furnished a statement but refused to answer any questions. It is farcical and a disgrace.”