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Rift deepens as FAI criticise Shane Ross' comments at Oireachtas Committee

Trade union SIPTU, meanwhile, have told the Minister that morale among FAI workers is at an all-time low.

Sports minister Shane Ross (file photo.)
Sports minister Shane Ross (file photo.)
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE ONGOING RIFT between the FAI and Sports Minister Shane Ross has deepened tonight as the football body have issued a statement criticising the minister’s comments before an Oireachtas Committee today. 

Following a meeting between the parties on Monday night, Minister Ross revealed today the football body asked for a government bailout to the tune of €18 million. 

This was rejected by the Minister, citing a finding of the KOSI audit – sent to Gardaí by Sport Ireland and not published by the Minister under legal advice – which stated the FAI are not fit to handle public funds. 

Given it included the granting of state money, Ross referred to the business plan presented by the FAI as “not credible.” 

He later said he had not disseminated the document to members of the Oireachtas Sport Committee as it had been marked “confidential”, and said he perhaps should not have shared the figure of €18 million. 

Tonight’s FAI statement criticised Minister Ross for breaking confidentiality, and say this makes it more difficult to secure a financing package with the bank to secure the FAI’s financial future. 

“The Board of the Football Association of Ireland notes with deep disappointment some of the comments made at today’s meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Sport”, read the statement. 

“The FAI Board had welcomed the opportunity to meet with Government on Monday night when confidential talks took place regarding the financial future of the Association and efforts to safeguard jobs at the FAI and the future of football in Ireland.

“That confidentiality was broken in the Oireachtas today and as a consequence, this has made the efforts to secure the financial future of the FAI all the more difficult.”

Executive Lead Paul Cooke is quoted in the statement, and said the independent directors nominated are unlikely to accept their positions until a refinancing package has been agreed.

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“We made it clear to Government on Monday that the Board is frustrated at the delay in the appointment of an Independent Chairperson and three Independent Directors. Like the Government, the Association wants to see these appointments made immediately.

The process to appoint Independent Directors commenced at the earliest possible date following the adoption of the Governance Review Group report but we still don’t know the identity of the nominees for these positions. Until the refinancing package is signed-off, it is unlikely that Independent Directors will be available for appointment. What was said in the Oireachtas today will not help the recruitment process for those Independent Directors.

“The purpose of the meeting with Government on Monday was to expedite the completion of the refinancing deal, thus allowing the nominated Independent Directors to complete their own due diligence and take up their roles. That remains the priority of the Board.”

Elsewhere tonight, SIPTU released their own statement following a meeting with Minister Ross, as fears mount the FAI’s dire financial situation will lead to job losses at the Association. 

“We informed the Minister that morale among FAI staff is at an all-time low due to the impact of the current financial crisis and the mismanagement of the Association” read the SIPTU statement.

“The Minister informed the meeting that he expects a new FAI Chair and four new directors to be in place within days.”

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Gavin Cooney

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