The FAI delegation, including John Delaney (centre), arrive at Leinster House this morning
Senior members of the Football Association of Ireland, including former CEO and current executive vice-president of the FAI John Delaney, are appearing before the Oireachtas sports committee.
It follows revelations in The Sunday Times on St Patrick’s Day that the former CEO of the FAI John Delaney gave the FAI a “bridging loan” of €100,000 on April 25, 2017 – a loan Sport Ireland said it knew nothing about – and that the FAI paid €3,000 a month in rent for Mr Delaney for several years while he was earning €360,000.
Mr Delaney failed to secure a High Court injunction on the eve of St Patrick’s Day to prevent publication of Mark Tighe’s story about the loan.
On Monday, the FAI’s president Donal Conway released a statement saying, among other things, that previous comments made by the FAI in respect of the loan “did not accurately reflect the board’s level of awareness” about it.
He added: “This matter is being considered by the board sub-committee.”
The meeting can be watched live above.
Previously: John Delaney on Broadsheet
President of the FAI Donal Conway (above) has told the committee that if all cheques issued by the FAI before the week ending April 28, 2017, had been cashed in, it would have been likely that there would have been “insufficient funds” to cover all the cheques.
He said it was a “short-term issue” as there was a legitimate expectation of funds making their way to the FAI, via “various income streams”, including from tickets, sponsorship, grant funding and “other sources”.
Mr Conway said Mr Delaney’s cheque of April 25, 2017, “provided immediate financial relief” to the FAI – particularly in respect of one creditor’s request to drawdown money from the FAI on April 26.
He said the board acknowledges that the circumstances of the loan was “exceptional”, adding that the loan was repaid on June 16, 2017.
Mr Conway said no contract or agreement was entered into between the FAI and Mr Delaney and no interest or charges were levied, or paid, by the FAI in respect of the transaction.
Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger tweetz:
This is how John Delaney is going to play it at the Oireachtas committee.
“I acted in the best interests of the association….I did it [wrote the €100,000 cheque] in the best interests of football.”
Mr Delaney speaking at the committee this morning.
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy is the first politician to ask questions.
This is because she was the first politician to raise concerns and request Mr Delaney to come before the committee – last year.
Mr Murphy asked Mr Delaney:
“Just to clear one thing up Mr Delaney, you said you recall asking the director of finance [Eamon Breen] about any reporting or disclosure of obligations out of the €100,000 payment, can you recall the response to that?”
Mr Delaney replied:
“I’ve made it clear in my statement, Deputy Murphy, that I can’t add any further to that…given the various investigations that are taking place.”
Ms Murphy turns her attention to Mr Conway and asks him about the statement earlier this week in which he FAI said previous comments about the board’s awareness of the loan were inaccurate.
Mr Conway said, at the time of the loan, three members of the board were aware of it, while other board members became aware of it on March 4, 2019, during a regular board meeting. [The Sunday Times contacted FAI about the loan on March 1].
Ms Murphy later asks why the board was “kept in the dark”.
Mr Conway said: “This is the only occasion that this kind of a transaction actually occurred. And the matter…was dealt with at the level of the finance department and the CEO [Delaney].”
Mr Conway also told Ms Murphy that, while the board were informed of the loan on March 4, there was a conference call about Mr Delaney’s injunction attempt on March 16 (the night of which the injunction took place).
Fine Gael TD Noel Rock asked if the creditor that wasn’t named – but prompted the need for the loan from Mr Delaney – was Dundalk FC.
Mr Conway said: “That’s a matter, an internal matter in the FAI. I’m not going to go into that.”
Mr Rock accepted this and then asked if the “creditor” had made previous requests for funding, before April 25, 2019.
Mr Conway said the FAI would have had an “ongoing dialogue” with that creditor”.
Asked of the FAI was close to becoming “effectively insolvent” at the time of this request for money, Mr Conway said:
“I wouldn’t accept that view. I would draw your attention to our accounts each year. I think we’ve had nine consecutive years of profit. I think cash-flow, as I say, can be a challenge to manage but because of the timing of revenue or income streams, that does make it difficult.
“That doesn’t lead to a situation where you could conclude that the business was not a going concern, or insolvent.”
Fine Gael Senator John O’Mahony asked Mr Conway who within FAI made the decision not to inform Sport Ireland about the loan.
Mr Conway said it was “an omission on our part”.
Mr O’Mahony suggested “somebody made a call” not to tell Sport Ireland.
But Mr Conway said: “That may not be the record, deputy.”
Mr O’Mahony also asked Mr Conway about the FAI-commissioned Jonathan Hall and Associates review – which the FAI claims prompted the change of Mr Delaney’s job from CEO of the FAI to executive vice-president of the FAI (a week after The Sunday Times story about the loan).
Asked when the report was commissioned, Mr Conway said “early March”.
[It should be noted Mark Tighe has reported that The Sunday Times first contacted the FAI about the loan on March 1, 2019, his story was published on March 17 and Mr Delaney’s role change was announced on the night of March 24]
Asked about the terms of reference of the review, Mr Conway said: “It was essentially a review into the senior management structure.”
Asked if there were “no specific terms of reference”, Mr Conway said it was a scoping review.
Mr Conway said the completed review was given to the FAI in “late March” and the decision to change Mr Delaney’s role took place “within days”.
Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy asked Mr Conway about the hiring by the FAI of Jonathan Hall for the review.
Mr Conway said Mr Hall had previously done “considerable work for the FAI” in the area of corporate governance.
He then went on to confirm that the review wasn’t put out to tender.
Asked who decided to hire Mr Hall, Mr Conway said: “The board.”
Donal Conway (centre), director of public relations and communications at the FAI Cathal Dervan (back centre), solicitor Aidan Eames (back right)
On March 18 – a day after the loan story broke – the FAI released a statement saying the FAI board was “kept fully informed in relation to the matter [the €100,000 loan] at all times”.
But this wasn’t the case.
Further to this…
Ms Coppinger put to Mr Delaney that he made it clear in his statement, he will not speak about his former role as CEO of the FAI, or the €100,000 loan, but he is willing to speak about his current role.
She asked if it’s fair to say he’s still “double-jobbing” as he currently has two roles – executive vice president of the FAI and being on the UEFA committee.
[Mr Delaney gave an interview to Tipp FM last week saying he was doing three jobs and this was too much for him]
Mr Delaney ultimately said “no” and went on to explain what his roles will require of him.
Ms Coppinger then had this exchange with Mr Delaney…
Coppinger: “Do you think it’s fair that you are answerable to the public in your roles? Including in your current role, given that the public do contribute to the buying of the match tickets, to the football jerseys, to the merchandise and while you’ve said here today, for legal reasons, following the Angela Kerins case, that you’re not willing to talk about it. But do you not think you’ve a duty to answer some questions?”
Delaney: “I’ve read my statement as it is.”
Coppinger: “Ok, well on your current role. Would it be fair or accurate to say that the salary for that is more than the total League of Ireland prize money…”
Fergus O’Dowd [chairman of the committee: “Obviously it’s a question everybody would like answers to in this committee. You [Delaney] don’t have to answer that question, given our…”
Coppinger: “He can if he wants to…”
O’Dowd: “No, no, no, let’s be honest about this now…I’m…”
Coppinger: “He can choose not to…”
O’Dowd: “No, no, what I’m saying is he can answer if he wishes but he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to…Our role as a committee is to stay within our remit.”
[Solicitor Aidan Eames passes a note to Mr Delaney]
Coppinger: “Right, well, Mr Delaney has said he’s willing to answer about his current role which is very much connected to, you know, club development, etc, so my questions…”
O’Dowd: “Time is up on this. Everybody will get in again a second time.”
More to follow