As if things couldn’t get worse, yesterday was a shocking day for the credibility of the FAI.
It emerged before the OIreachtas Committee had a chance to sharpen their pencils that Deloitte had filed a report with the Companies Registration Office saying it was their belief that the Association was in breach of two regulations of company law in relation to the keeping of records.
This is only the third time in 12 months that such a notice has been filed about any company in Ireland. The penalties for breaching company law can be serious in financial terms on the company but also on Directors.
Deloitte have been long time Auditors of the FAI so we might ask the question of why this has only arisen now and the answer is that they rely on information supplied to them by the Board of Directors.
Is that an ideal situation? Probably not but it is even more damaging to those who have been in charge.
We have always erred on the side of trust when it came to matters of financial probity at the FAI. The prevailing mood was one of scepticism though we were willing to take people at their word, basing our analysis on what was known and was a matter of fact.
We have been criticised for that by others in the media and they are fair to make their point in light of what emerged yesterday.
We will continue though to take an alternative viewpoint where we feel that is of value. It is the case that if everyone is looking in the same direction that the most interesting things can be happening elsewhere.
If laws have been broken, and we will now as a result of investigations come to learn to what extent that is the case, then we were wrong to trust.
We still maintain that the FAI does an enormous amount of good in communities up and down the country. Our lens more often falls on the capaigns like Walking Football, Frame Football, Football for All and many that make a significant difference in the way our society operates, than on the wins or losses of the international team.
The Governance that underpins both has to be held to account but hopefully without hurting the programmes that are out there today as they were yesterday.
Minister of State Brendan Griffin seemed to draw a line yesterday that while the FAI will not be able to draw down money from any Government Capital Funds until such time as its governance and finances are deemed in good standing, that individual football clubs will not be subject to the same moratorium.
There is time to get the house in order now before deliberation and decision is made on the submissions which close today for the Large Scale Sports Infrastructure Fund. Each project will be judged on their merits but those for Glanmire, Drogheda, Donegal and Dublin are coming into the game one-nil behind.
We raised the point yesterday that John Delaney while stepping aside from his FAI duties has not done similar with regard to UEFA. As the Chairman of the Committee behind the Euro U17 Championships taking place here in less than three weeks time will he be front and centre stage? That’s a question that wil keep the story fresh at least until May 3rd unless clarified in the shorter term.
The politicians of the Committee kept coming back to the area of a forensic audit of the finances and the suggestion that the ODCE will be involved in the terms of reference suggest they will be thorough but whether it technically becomes a forensic audit is not yet known.
We know that the Board of the FAI will step down, possibly at the AGM in July, possibly beforehand.
There is a rush to start afresh immediately with an interim Board but just as with the questions that were asked of, but not answered by John Delaney last week, it is often those that were there that can provide the clearest answers.
Comparisons were drawn yesterday to the reforms that had taken place within the Olympic movement. It is worth bearing in mind in the clamour for everyone to go, that Sarah Keane, the key figure in that reform was a member of the Olympic Council throughout the Rio era and if she had been barred from standing again then things might have turned out differently.
We are wiser this morning than we were yesterday. We should make sure to tread carefully now as the clean up begins in earnest. We should though tread with purpose and see this as an opportunity to change the way the FAI is governed at the top.
Sport’s greatest strength is the volunteer base upon whose shoulders the games we play are carried. When good work done in the past is the primary basis for leadership in the present and the future though It can become its greatest weakness.
We need to learn lessons and emerge stronger as a result. With that in mind, in the coming days, we will be looking at a potential playbook that has already been written and which could provide a path to redemption.