Belfast Telegraph

Football authority has much work to do to rebuild trust, says president

FAI chief Donal Conway was appearing before a Government committee to address various controversies.

Donal Conway Donal Conway was appearing before the Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport (PA)
Donal Conway Donal Conway was appearing before the Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport (PA)

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has much work to do to rebuild trust and confidence in the organisation, its president has told a parliamentary committee.

to address controversies surrounding the organisation’s financial and governance arrangements.

The FAI has been in the eye of a political storm since it emerged that former chief executive John Delaney loaned the FAI 100,000 euro in 2017 – a bridging payment that was not flagged to Sport Ireland, the state body that oversees the public funding of sporting organisations in the country.

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FAI executive vice-president John Delaney arrives at Leinster House (Brian Lawless/PA)

Appearing before the committee alongside Mr Delaney and other FAI officials, Mr Conway told members: “I know we have much work to do to rebuild trust and confidence in the Association, and we are committed to achieving this as a board.”

On Tuesday, Sport Ireland announced it was suspending funding to the FAI in response to the issues that have emerged.

Mr Delaney left his role as chief executive last month in the wake of the loan controversy, taking on the newly-created FAI job of executive vice president.

In his opening statement, the contents of which were already in the public domain before his appearance, Mr Conway told politicians Mr Delaney’s new role would “benefit Irish football”.

“John Delaney has been appointed executive vice president, in order to effectively utilise his skills and connections at UEFA and FIFA level,” he said.

Auditors Grant Thornton have been called in by the FAI to review its accounting records.

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Mr Conway told the committee that trust must be rebuilt in the governing body (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Conway highlighted that the finances of a sporting organisation are difficult to forecast.

“The qualification stage process of football is unique,” he said.

“Financial fluctuations are the norm and cashflow is often irregular. The disappointment of the failure of the men’s senior team to qualify for World Cup 2018 had a major impact on match attendance and, subsequently, cashflow.”

He added: “I want to make clear how seriously we take the issues that have emerged in recent weeks.

“The sub-committee of the (FAI) Board has been working every day since its establishment on March 26 to plan a way forward, ensure transparency and promote greater trust in our organisation.

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Failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup was cited as a main reason for cashflow problems (Steve Paston/PA)

“There has been much work done in recent years to create a more financially sustainable organisation. Cash flow management is at the forefront of our financial planning.”

Concluding his public statement, Mr Conway said: “Despite our great success on the pitch, and in communities around Ireland, the past few weeks have undoubtedly been a difficult time for Irish football and the FAI.

“We are determined as a board, and I am determined as president, that our sole focus shall once again be to promote football in this country.

“I hope the processes that we are putting in place in the short term, and the long term processes around governance and reform, will help to restore your faith in the Football Association of Ireland.”

PA

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