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FAI chief 'should face questions'

Published 08/06/2015

FAI chief executive John Delaney, pictured centre, may face further questions over a payment to his association from FIFA
FAI chief executive John Delaney, pictured centre, may face further questions over a payment to his association from FIFA

John Delaney could be called before an Irish government committee to explain how FIFA's controversial five million euro loan to the Football Association of Ireland remained under the radar.

Members of the Oireachtas sports and tourism committee, which is due to meet on Wednesday, have suggested FAI chief executive Delaney should appear before them to answer a series of questions over the matter, which sparked global headlines last week.

Committee chairman, Fine Gael TD John O'Mahony, told the Irish Independent: "There are governance issues arising here and the FAI does receive taxpayers' funds. This will be considered by the committee members."

Reports of the payment, which was described in the confidentiality agreement between FIFA and the FAI as an "inducement", initially emerged last year, but it was confirmed for the first time by Delaney and then FIFA last week.

The governing body handed over the cash to head off the prospect of legal action over the Republic of Ireland's heartbreaking 2009 World Cup play-off defeat by France, during which Thierry Henry's blatant handball during the build-up to the decisive goal was not spotted by the match officials.

Another committee member, Labour TD Michael McCarthy, said: "The arrival of five million euros into the FAI coffers in 2010, a time of nationwide financial distress, appears to have gone unremarked.

"How was such a large sum of money handled and transferred, and how does it relate to accounting practices generally? These are just some of the questions which arise and the public are entitled to answers.

"That is why I believe the FAI should provide the committee with the answers it needs."

The calls echoed that of Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis, who said earlier in the week: "It is in the best interests of the FAI and football as a whole that the Oireachtas Committee and Mr Delaney can meet for a frank discussion on this payment rather than allow rumours and doubt to grow over the actions of our national football association on the international stage."

The story overshadowed preparations for Sunday's historic friendly against England, the first in the city for 20 years, which ultimately unfolded as a drab 0-0 draw.

Manager Martin O'Neill did his best to side-step the issue at his pre-match press conference on Saturday, and was equally unforthcoming after the game as he turned his attention to this weekend's vital Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland.

He said: "I'll discuss it sometime, okay? I haven't the time to do it really here. Do you know what? I will when it's done and dusted.

"Absolutely, I'll just put my seal of approval or disapproval on it. Seriously."

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