Financial, Legal and Governance Issues In Play

The publication of the FAI Accounts for 2018 and the revised numbers for the previous two years was a sobering moment for Irish football.

As forecast on Sport for Business on Friday morning, the total liabilities for the association at the end of last year come to €55 million.

The losses continue to mount with 2018 producing a net loss of €8.9 million on top of a restated negative figure of €5.6 million in adjustments for 2017 and €2.3 million in the same for 2016.

The latter two marks a total of €7.9 million of loses that had not been recorded or reported for 2016 and 2017. Given that 2016 saw us compete in the knock out stages of the Euro 2016 Finals that is particularly shocking.

Given the challenges that 2019 has thrown at the FAI and the lack of a major tournament, it has to be expected that the figures will be even worse when the incoming management team and independent directors get to look at the up to date management accounts.

Deloitte, who it has to be said have been the Auditors of the FAI accounts since 1997, could not offer an opinion on the Association’s ability to trade on as a going concern, though new Executive Lead Paul Cooke, himself a qualified chartered accountant was at pains to state that a refinancing package with Bank of Ireland was in the final stages of negotiation.

If that had been completed it might have given more breathing room but as of now, that has to be the most important element of what is facing him in the role, more so even than the Government and potential law enforcement moves that are also happening in parallel.

A remortgaging of the €29 Million debt still outstanding on the Aviva Stadium could produce a monthly repayment of less than €200,000 to clear that by 2034. It is one of the ‘big numbers’ that can most easily be understood by fans and those watching from the sidelines as the FAI struggles to stay afloat.

We know that UEFA has backed the FAI with a credit line that is based on the advance drawdown of future income which, while giving breathing space in the present, stores up problems again in the longer-term generation of revenue.

Read More: A Full Copy of the 2018 Accounts of the FAI can be seen here.

Government Funding

It is reported overnight that the Government, through both Minister Shane Ross and an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, is expediting plans to provide most of the money it had budgeted for 2019 through Sport Ireland but which have been withheld

This will go towards securing the employment of Development Officers around the country and programmes aimed at people with disability and in disadvantaged areas.

It is most likely to follow the pathway of payment through BDO as a third party with a slew of terms and conditions on how it is spent.

While it is not technically a lifting of the suspension on Government funding through Sport Ireland it does effectively free up money that the FAI might otherwise have had to find from within its own sources.

Committee Calls

It also began to emerge last night that the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport have invited Minister Shane ross, Sport Ireland and the FAI to a special sitting this Wednesday.

This group was the scene of the implosion of the credibility of John Delaney and the old Board back in April and will provide an opportunity for more meaningful engagement than can be conducted through online and mainstream media as has largely been the case since.

Back in April Delaney refused to answer almost every question aimed at him on the basis of legal advice and that legal advice is also central to what might happen in the next 48 hours as different groups with the potential to investigate the FAI meet to discuss what is the most appropriate course of action.

Legal Challenges

An Garda Síochána will have been poring over the findings of the KOSI report over the past week and are expected to meet with officials from the Office for the Director of Corporate enforcement today.

Some of the elements of information that are now in the open with the full publication of the accounts for the past three years will raise serious questions for members of the Board. They have legal obligations under the Companies Act to make themselves fully aware of all financial management in a company which they then sign off on as the basis on which audited accounts are studied.

Those signatures on the 2017 accounts have been admitted to have been made without those obligations being fulfilled, which carries potential financial and even jail term penalties for the individuals concerned.

Donal Conway who has announced he will resign as President in January and John Earley are the only two remaining Board members who served in that time though the obligations are applicable to all the rest of the Board who stepped down in 2019 as well.

Read More: Next Steps for Leadership of FAI

Image credit: Oisin Keniry, Inpho.ie

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