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FAI confident of avoiding insolvency as appalling finances laid bare

The FAI’s auditors refused to state that the football body are a going concern in a devastating set of accounts.

Outgoing FAI President Donal Conway.
Outgoing FAI President Donal Conway.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

THE FAI REMAIN confident they are not going to enter insolvency, in spite of the fact their auditors refused to sign off in agreement. 

The crisis-hit football body published their long-delayed accounts for 2018 earlier today, showing that debts have soared to €55 million. The accounts also revealed that the Association paid former CEO John Delaney a severance package of €462,000 earlier this year. 

Vice-President and interim Executive Lead Paul Cooke, one of the few to question the FAI’s finances in recent years, today said the figures are “worse than he thought.” 

The Association are now being kept afloat by the early drawdown of funds from Uefa, and are currently renegotiating a new financial package with their bank.

The FAI say this is close to being finalised, but is subject to approval by an FAI Council vote. Cooke says that the plan forecasts the FAI’s cash-flow will break even in 2023. 

Remarkably, auditors Deloitte refused to agree that the FAI remain a going concern.

In a section titled “disclaimer of opinion”, Deloitte say there is not “sufficient audit evidence that the [FAI] will be able to meet its liabilities as they fall due.” 

Cooke, however, has ruled out insolvency. 

“[Deloitte] require more evidence. It’s a little like if you were to take out a mortgage: they would require you to have everything signed from the bank. We are not there yet but we are very close to it.” 

Delaney was entitled to a severance package as, in 2014, the FAI board signed off on a contract extension entitling him to a payment of €3 million upon expiration of that contract in 2021. 

President Donal Conway, who is stepping down from the role and will be replaced at an EGM on 25 Jaunary, was a member of the board that signed off on that payment to Delaney and incredibly, he and most other board members were unaware of the payment. “I took a lot of things on trust”, said Conway. 

Delaney negotiated the payment with a remuneration sub-committee of the board, and the committee did not inform the rest of the board of the payment. “The board did not do its job well enough”, accepted Conway. 

The payment has not been included in FAI accounts to date, but was included in the restated accounts published today, as an annual charge of €428,571.

Today also brought the official end of John Delaney’s vision of the Association being debt-free by 2020. Instead, a 15-year mortgage on the Aviva Stadium has been agreed. 

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While the FAI potentially selling their 50% stake in the stadium is not included in the financing package currently being discussed with the bank, Conway confirmed it has been discussed at board level and did not fully rule out the prospect in the future. 

“We have looked at that as a board. It’s not a simple matter of deciding to put our stake up for sale. We are co-owners, the government, which put in €191 million has a charge and interest, but it’s quite complicated and potentially not possible to sell that asset.”

Job losses at the Association are an inevitable consequence, although they were not addressed in detail at today’s press conference. 

With state funding still suspended, Sports minister Shane Ross has made it clear he will not countenance any link with the old regime remaining at the top of the FAI. Conway aside, the only remaining board member from the past is the SFAI’s John Earley, elected to the Board in 2017. 

He defended his record as a board member by saying that he asked some “serious questions” but was unwilling to disclose the answers he was given, and maintained his intention to complete the one-year term to which he was elected at July’s AGM. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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