Corporate governance at the FAI is back in the spotlight as two high-profile League of Ireland delegates on senior council continue to seek answers around the Association’s finances and reform agenda.
The correspondence from Shelbourne co-owner Andrew Doyle and Cabinteely chairman Larry Bass, seen by the Irish Examiner, follows just a fortnight after Nixon Morton lodged a letter of complaint to Uefa and Fifa.
Both Doyle and Bass were elected to the FAI’s finance committee back on October 25 and are aggrieved that the new forum has not convened almost nine months on, a period in which significant financial decisions, such as the state’s bailout package and refinancing deal with Bank of Ireland, have been made.
In an email to Roy Barrett a week ago, Doyle contends a formal complaint detailing “material governance issues” submitted on March 17, the week football in Ireland was first suspended due to Covid-19, went unanswered by the FAI independent chairman.
Under FAI rules, the finance committee are responsible for items such as formulating policy for expenses of council and agreeing with the board annual fees for auditors.
Grant Thornton are due to replace Deloitte, who resigned after 23 years in the role.
Seán Brodie, a partner with the professional services firm PWC, last month quit the FAI’s audit risk and compliance committee, listing a “lack of progress” among his reasons.
Establishing the new committees formed part of the Governance Review Group (GRG) recommendations enshrined by members into the FAI rule book in July 2019. They have yet to be fully populated.
Doyle claims he and Bass have been asking “important questions” since January 25, receiving “no financial information whatsoever”, nor “have the necessary finance committee meetings taken place”. For the FAI’s part, as a board they responded to a series of specific questions on May 11, yet the complainants argue that many remain unanswered and some replies “only serve to beg other questions”.
Those questions in the 19-page letter were categorised under four headings: interim executive appointments and potential conflict of interest, FAI rules and governance principles, financial information, and potential legal exposures.
They take particular issue with the board choosing to review terms of reference for the new committees when, according to emails from FAI executive members cited in their letter, that task constituted the initial function of the committee.
Also contained in the missive are questions surrounding the recruitment process, salaries, and value for money of interim CEO Gary Owens and his deputy Niall Quinn.
Both were headhunted in January within a fortnight of fellow Visionary Group member Barrett becoming the association’s first-ever non-executive chairman.
Sports Minister Shane Ross is due to address FAI matters this evening in the Dáil.
Last week, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on sport, Marc MacSharry TD, submitted six parliamentary questions to Ross, primarily related to governance reforms.
He suggests that Barrett was appointed despite not being part of the shortlist of candidates assembled by recruitment specialists Amrop.
The Sligo-Leitrim politician also echoes concerns of veteran council members about an agreement to phase out those with 10 years of service being culled from 36 to six months under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the bailout, co-signed by Barrett and Ross.
Doyle concludes last week’s email by vowing to circulate their concerns to the fellow 77 council members within a week should this “final opportunity to answer promptly” be passed up. An FAI source confirmed a full reply would be forthcoming. Shelbourne have so far declined to comment.