Belfast Telegraph

Irish premier criticises former FAI chief over unanswered questions

The FAI has been in the eye of a political storm since it emerged that ex-CEO John Delaney provided it with a bridging loan.

Leo Varadkar was unhappy that questions went answered (Brian Lawless/PA)
Leo Varadkar was unhappy that questions went answered (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ireland’s premier has criticised the behaviour of the former chief executive of the country’s soccer association.

The Football Association Ireland (FAI) has been in the eye of a political storm since it emerged that John Delaney provided it with a bridging loan to prevent it exceeding a 1.5 million euro bank overdraft.

At a parliament committee hearing which took place over seven hours on Wednesday, FAI board members appeared unable to answer basic questions, including how many bank accounts the organisation has, and often refused to answer, citing legal or commercial limitations.

Mr Delaney himself read a short statement at the start of the committee, then refused to be questioned further, citing legal advice, and sat in silence for the majority of the session.

The appearance has sparked intense criticism of the board, as well as Mr Delaney himself, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stating on Friday that questions have gone unanswered.

John Delaney did not answer questions at a parliament committee (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I don’t think anyone would be satisfied by it, I think the public, taxpayers and football fans would have liked to have seen those questions answered,” Mr Varadkar said.

“The truth is, he was within his legal rights not to answer those questions because he is not a public servant and therefore not accountable to the Oireachtas.

“However, the FAI is accountable to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and is accountable to Sport Ireland for the public money they get.

“I know those bodies will have questions to ask the FAI, which I think need to be answered and thus allowing us to do what we want to do, which is to restore funding to the FAI so the money flows once again to local clubs, to young people and to women in sport.”

Mr Delaney has insisted he acted in the best interests of the game when he loaned the money to remedy a short-term cash flow problem.

The organisation has hired financial firm Grant Thornton to investigate how the loan came about, despite three members of the board knowing about the loan when it was paid.

The controversial payment, which has raised questions about the FAI’s finance and governance arrangements, was not flagged to Sport Ireland, the state body that oversees the public funding of sporting organisations in the country.

Sport Ireland has temporarily withheld further funding to the FAI pending an auditor’s probe.

On Thursday, The Professional Footballers Association Ireland called for a complete overhaul of the organisation after reviewing the board’s behaviour in the Irish parliament.

A statement from the Management Committee of the PFAI condemned the board as “rotten”.



From Belfast Telegraph