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Staff criticise lack of information over finances as FAI confirm Oireachtas Committee appearance

Sports minister Shane Ross and Sport Ireland will not be appearing alongside the football body on Wednesday, however.

A view of FAI HQ at Abbottstown.
A view of FAI HQ at Abbottstown.
Image: ©INPHO

FAI STAFF REPRESENTED by trade union SIPTU have criticised a previous lack of clarity over the Association’s true financial position. 

Accounts for 2018 published last Friday show the FAI to be carrying a total net debt of €55 million, and revised and restated accounts for 2017 shows an initially posted €2.75 million surplus was, in reality, a loss of €2.9 million. 

FAI interim lead Paul Cooke has warned that the gravity situation means there will be “consequences”, with a significant number of staff now fearing for their jobs. The situation is exacerbated by the continued suspension of state funding, much of which funds grassroots activities. 

In a statement published on Medium by SIPTU newspaper Liberty, Sector organiser Denis Hynes cites two separate occasions in which staff felt misled about the state of the FAI finances. 

“Last year, the former CEO of the FAI, John Delaney, informed our members that in 24 months the Association would be debt free, which it is now clear could never have been the case.

“In May 2019, SIPTU representatives outlined our concerns to the Board of the FAI concerning the possible insolvency of the organisation if funds from the Government and Sports Ireland were not forthcoming. At that time, the management of the FAI rejected that this was the case and added that it was shocked by the allegation.

“For staff to hear last Friday that the FAI is €55 million in debt came as an extreme shock and caused them great concern. The workers were later made aware that there would be consequences and job losses due to the dire financial situation and mismanagement of funding.”

The statement adds that SIPTU staff are somewhat reassured by an announcement by Minister for Sport Shane Ross that he intends to restore funding via an intermediary separate to the FAI.

SIPTU say this will pay the salaries of approximately 60 development officers, but the union will seek a meeting with the Minister to discuss the overall future of the FAI and the future of all staff. 

Minister Ross, however, will not be in attendance at an emergency meeting of the Oireachtas Sport Committee on Wednesday. The Minister, Sport Ireland and the FAI were last night invited to appear at government buildings later this week, but Ross phoned Committee chair Fergus O’Dowd this afternoon to say he would instead be available to appear before the Committee next week. 

Ross said he does not want to appear until further progress is made on his plan to restore funding to the game’s grassroots. 

Sport Ireland will not be present either, as their Chairman Kieran Mulvey is due to attend a separate Oireachtas Committee meeting at the same time. Sport Ireland are expected to join Minister Ross before the Committee a week later, on Wednesday 18 December. 

The FAI, however, will appear before the Committee on Wednesday.

The Committee have invited all eight members of the FAI board to the meeting, although none are compelled to attend. The FAI have yet to confirm their line-up for the meeting, and Committee sources have attached particular emphasis to the presence of outgoing president Donal Conway and John Earley, the only remaining board members from John Delaney’s tenure as CEO. 

The Committee also hope to be given at least a redacted version of the independent KOSI audit of the FAI. The report, commissioned by Sport Ireland, has been referred to the Gardaí and has not been published under legal advice given to Minister Ross. 

“If possible, we hope to see at least some of the recommendations from the KOSI report, so long as it does not compromise the ongoing Garda investigation”, Committee chair Fergus O’Dowd told The42 earlier today. 

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Gavin Cooney

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