FAI CEO Jonathan Hill (file pic). Ryan Byrne/INPHO

FAI invited to appear before the PAC over Covid funding and executive pay controversy

State funding to the association was suspended following a breach of the terms of the FAI’s Memorandum of Understanding with the government.

THE FOOTBALL Association of Ireland have been invited to appear before the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee to discuss its “ongoing financial and regulatory issues”.

State funding to the association was recently suspended following a breach of the terms of the FAI’s Memorandum of Understanding with the government.

The issue relates to payments made to the FAI CEO Jonathan Hill across 2022. 

The terms of the agreement had capped the CEO’s remuneration at no higher than that of a secretary general of a government department.

However, a Sport Ireland audit found that Hill was overpaid €20,000 in 2022, via benefit in kind on travel expenses and money paid in lieu of holiday leave not taken — the CEO subsequently apologised “unreservedly” to staff after these revelations emerged through the media.

London-based Hill has since repaid the €20,000 in full and acknowledged that he would now cover the cost of his own expenses amid regular commutes to Dublin.

Fianna Fáil TD for Cork East James O’Connor told the committee that “urgent questions regarding the Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Sport and the FAI require immediate scrutiny by the PAC”.

O’Connor said that “over €60 million in government funding was provided to the FAI in the last four years — included in this is €33.7 million in Covid grant funding”.

He said that the FAI should be invited to appear before the PAC alongside officials from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to discuss the pay controversy and Covid funding.

Fine Gael TD Colm Burke echoed O’Connor’s concerns, adding: “The department are providing funding but it’s on the basis it would be used effectively and deliver a service to members of the public. I think we need full accountability here.”

Fianna Fáil TD Paul McAuliffe similarly said there needed to be a focus on the Covid Resilience Funding: “There is very much a feeling at club level that that funding never filtered down and certainly I would like to explore some of the details as to how the Department ensured that that money was distributed, and if the FAI could supply that information at the same meeting it would be important for the confidence that people have in sport.”

He continued: “This is not the FAI’s first rodeo. They have been here before. So any potential that they might not be abiding by the funding arrangements, which the department agreed with them, is of significant concern and all the more reason why we should be intervening at a very early stage.”

PAC chair Brian Stanley concluded the discussion by confirming that the FAI would be invited before the committee to discuss these matters in early 2024.

The FAI had not responded to a request for comment by the time of the article’s publication.