Tennis Ireland rocked by allegations of poor governance

Tennis Ireland rocked by allegations of poor governance

There has been a series of correspondence between board members over issues at Tennis Ireland.

Tennis Ireland, the governing body for the sport, has been rocked with a series of allegations about misgovernance, according to documents seen by the Irish Examiner. 

The allegations include that a false invoice was generated to make a payment to a tennis coach who had left the body, a failure to investigate a bullying complaint, the undermining of the chief executive, the exclusion of some members from board meetings and a suggestion that minutes not be taken at board meetings.

A review is currently being conducted into the board’s effectiveness by the Irish Public Administration. 

The review is standard for sports bodies every three or four years, but sources say that Sport Ireland brought it forward after it was approached by the chair and chief executive of Tennis Ireland over the dysfunction at board level.

Serious allegation

The most serious allegation concerns the generation of an alleged false invoice in October 2020 to pay €2,520 to a coach who had been connected to the Leinster branch. 

According to documents seen by the Irish Examiner, the chief executive, Richard Fahey, expressed concern about the invoice and suggested no services had been rendered for it. 

At the time the staff in Tennis Ireland were on the Covid employee payment which fell short of their normal wages. The sum of money involved in the payment in question equated to the shortfall in this coach’s income for the duration of the Covid payment. 

Correspondence from Mr Fahey indicated his concern about how the payment would reflect on other employees and whether there were tax or social insurance issues. The coach had, at the time of the payment, already left Tennis Ireland.

Despite that, the payment was made. The matter was not brought to the board’s attention until July this year when a board member said that the annual accounts should not be signed off until the payment was investigated. 

A sub-committee of the board conducted an investigation that has been heavily criticised by Mr Fahey and others, particularly for the failure to interview key personnel associated with the transaction.

There has been a series of correspondence between board members over the issues that have arisen. 

In September, Robert Cummins, the chair of the Munster branch, expressed his frustration at what was going on to the chair of Tennis Ireland, David O'Beirne.

“I have tried my very best for the last two years to work with everybody including yourself to move tennis and our company forward,” he wrote. 

I am happy to work with anyone to that aim, but I am aghast at the behaviour of some people who will not follow any sort of recognised or written procedure to progress board matters in a legal or constructive fashion.

A series of detailed questions to Tennis Ireland resulted in a reply nine days later stating that the matters were internal to the organisation and no further comment would be made at this point. 

Sport Ireland has stated that it is aware of “certain issues within Tennis Ireland”.

“The IPA review of board effectiveness is not investigating any particular issue but should provide insight into how and why issues arise,” the spokesperson said. “It is ongoing but expected shortly.” Sport Ireland said it is not aware of an issue that is a matter for An Garda Síochána.

The statement said decisions on funding for 2022 have yet to be taken and there is no discussion on that currently.

He added: “In general terms any unresolved issues could affect funding if they were deemed sufficiently serious as to impact on an organisation’s ability to deliver.”

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement says it does not comment on individual cases.

This article was edited at 10pm to include a response from Sport Ireland

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