It was hardly a surprise that there were more questions than answers when John Treacy faced the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport yesterday, given that the Sport Ireland chief executive had to admit that the body was still in the dark about the reasons for a controversial €100,000 loan from the FAI’s former chief executive John Delaney to the FAI in 2017.
He was critical of the FAI for failing to “provide any explanation” about the circumstances of the loan and also expressed disappointment at the timing and content of a letter from the association, delivered yesterday morning, which said that it had engaged consultancy firm Mazars to carry out an independent review.
“The letter does not provide any explanation on the circumstances of the loan and its repayment and the board of the FAI has not provided any legitimate reason to why it cannot provide the information requested,” said Treacy, who also said his organisation had not been consulted about the recent structural change at the FAI, which has seen Delaney move to the new position of executive vice-president and Rea Walshe appointed interim chief executive.
Treacy declined to answer in the affirmative, when asked by Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster, if he had confidence in the FAI board.
“As it stands right now, we have many questions,” Treacy said. “Where we are at the moment: We have asked questions and we have not got answers and that raises serious concerns within the executive and within Sport Ireland.” Pressed on whether he had confidence in the board, he replied: “Well, I am not saying yes.”
It all means the ball is firmly back in the FAI’s court ahead of next Wednesday’s scheduled appearance by a delegation from the organisation — expected to include John Delaney — at another sitting of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport.
If yesterday’s proceedings were the warm-up, next week’s look like being the competitive fixture, assuming, of course, that, the independent review notwithstanding, the FAI are in a position by then to provide illuminating answers. Last night, the FAI said there making no comment on yesterday’s developments.
Meanwhile, as pressure builds on Delaney and the FAI, some amateur club officials around the country have been going public in an effort to counter the tide of criticism by sending emails to soccer writers and broadcasters in support of the work they say the former CEO did for grassroots football during his time in charge.
From within the League of Ireland, Limerick FC chairman Pat O’Sullivan also issued a statement this week saying:
All in Limerick FC are grateful for John’s and the FAI’s support and contribution to the game in his time as CEO and fully believe he is the person to continue his work with Uefa and Fifa matters in his new role as executive vice-president.
At what is a hugely challenging time for the FAI, Irish football happens to find itself in the European spotlight this evening when the draw for the 2019 European Under-17 Championship Finals, which are being hosted in Ireland next month, takes place at the Aviva Stadium.
The event, beginning at 6.30pm, will be livestreamed on the FAI Facebook page. Uefa will also cover the event. Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Ireland, Russia, Spain, and Sweden are the countries involved, with matches due to be played at the Carlisle rounds, City Calling Stadium, RSC, Tallaght Stadium, Tolka Park, UCD Bowl, and Whitehall Stadium. The final will be played in Tallaght Stadium.
The finals will also act as Uefa’s qualifier for Europe’s five berths at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup in Brazil.