Time to Lace up the Boots

We are 24 hours out from the FAI delegation appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. Yesterday the FAI issued a statement outlining a number of new elements regarding the financial investigations currently underway while a copy of the 22-page opening statement to be made by FAI President Donal Conway was also in wide circulation.

In factual terms, we learned that Grant Thornton have been on site in Abbottstown since last Tuesday looking into the detail of the financial management and the technical aspects of what is now being described as a ‘payment’ from John Delaney of €100,000.

The semantics will no doubt be teased and worried over tomorrow but our understanding is that it was to cover a short term cash flow problem. Whether that should have been covered in a more normal fashion by the Association’s banking arrangements will be an area of questioning but more importantly at the Office of the director of Corporate Enforcement than by a political committee.

Review

Mazars are also conducting a review and the report by John Hall into overall governance at the association, which led to John Delaney switching from CEO to Executive Vice President has been sent to the members of the committee.

There appears to be a more conciliatory tone towards Sport Ireland with an apology for the lateness and the brevity of the last communication that caused last week’s lack of support by Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy when asked if he had confidence in the FAI Board.

It also appears that in his opening statement Conway will stand by Delaney in terms of his new role being for the benefit of Irish football.

As was always going to be the case, Delaney will be present and will be able to answer many of the questions that have been floating over the €100,000.

Flanked

He will be flanked by his successor as interim CEO Rea Walshe, Paraic Treanor and Eddie Murray, precisely the ‘call list’ that the committee had asked to be there.

The blend of sport, money, politics and powerful characters means there will be as great a level of attention on matters in the Committee Rooms at Leinster House than perhaps has ever been the case, even in the days of banking scandals and more.

It’s shaping up like Barcelona against Real Madrid or Liverpool against Man United. Whether it lives up to the billing that the TD’s and media have been assigning to it will be known tomorrow.

If instead, it becomes more a case of deflecting matters to areas of reviews, oversight from UEFA as opposed to more local level and perhaps most importantly the ODCE, then the world will keep turning, the coaching of players will still continue and the spotlight of public interest will keep turning to the next incidence of outrage.

Here is the statement issued by the FAI yesterday afternoon…

Statement from FAI President Donal Conway

The Football Association of Ireland has advised its attendance list for Wednesday’s meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport.

All requested members of the FAI are included on the list. The Association notes comments made by Sport Ireland and the Oireachtas Committee and acknowledges their concerns.

Further, the Association recognises and shares the desire for the matters to be addressed as soon as possible, with due regard to the different ongoing processes. The Board acknowledges the misgivings raised by Sport Ireland and the Oireachtas Committee last week and is also cognisant of the concerns of the Football Family and all stakeholders.

The Board is seeking to fully address all concerns in a determined and transparent manner and many steps are being taken to do so and to establish the requisite detail for Sport Ireland and the Oireachtas Committee. As well as the Board establishing a sub-committee to lead the work, the global auditing and consulting group Mazars has been commissioned to conduct an independent and in-depth external review of matters.

The Association’s advisors are working with Mazars to finalize the terms of reference for the review so work can begin. The Board has also requested that this review be completed as soon as possible.

Pending the review by Mazars, the Association has separately and urgently engaged Grant Thornton to conduct an internal review of the Association’s books, records and ledgers. Grant Thornton are on site at FAI HQ since Tuesday, April 2.

I regret that we were not in a position to assist Sport Ireland with answers to its questions before it attended the Committee last Wednesday. The FAI is engaging with Sport Ireland and communicated at a meeting with Sport Ireland on Friday evening that no disrespect was intended by the lateness of the letter of the 2nd of April or its brief contents. I accept more information would have assisted Sport Ireland and the Committee and I regret that it could not be provided before their meeting.

The Association has advised Sport Ireland that we are moving as fast as we can, being mindful of the complexity involved and the need to ensure that all statements we make are accurate and processes are fair and robust. We also advised that some recent comments made by the FAI did not accurately reflect the Board’s level of awareness of the existence of the €100,000 issue in 2017. This matter is being considered by the Board sub-committee.

The steps outlined are taking time. Meanwhile, the Association has offered to meet Sport Ireland’s audit staff and, with the assistance of Grant Thornton, to go through the relevant accounts to assure Sport Ireland that all Government funding has been properly spent since the last Sport Ireland audit of the FAI.

The FAI has also been in correspondence with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and remains available to assist in dealing with its particular inquiries.

I look forward now to engaging with Committee members on Wednesday as we seek to address all issues raised.

Time to lace up the boots, do the final stretches and get ready to take to the pitch…

 


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