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FAI 'unable to accept' Oireachtas invitation

The association say they want to prioritise ‘the refinancing package that will guarantee the future of the FAI and safeguard jobs’.

File pic.
File pic.
Image: INPHO

Updated at 11.25

THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION of Ireland say they are “unable to accept” an invitation to appear before an Oireachtas Committee on Wednesday.

A statement from the association says they want to focus on “the refinancing package that will guarantee the future of the FAI and safeguard jobs” for now, meaning they won’t have time to attend the hearing this week.

The association added that they would be happy to appear before the Committee at a future date.

It represents a u-turn from the organisation, who had previously indicated they were available to meet at any time. At the weekend, a statement read: “The Board of the FAI tonight wishes to inform Minister for Sport Shane Ross and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Sport that it remains available to meet, as stated at Friday’s press conference.”

Today’s statement in full reads: “The Board of the Football Association of Ireland has this morning informed the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport that it is unable to accept an invitation to appear before the Committee on Wednesday, December 11th.

The focus of the Board at this moment in time remains the refinancing package that will guarantee the future of the FAI and safeguard jobs, as well as the appointment of an Independent Chairperson and Independent Directors.

“As key Board members and senior executive staff are required at meetings vital to the financial restructuring and the appointment of an Independent Chairperson, it is not possible for the FAI to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on this occasion.

“The Board remains committed to appearing before the Committee on a date when the appropriate representatives are available.”

The association have come under increased pressure over the past week, after the extent of their debt was revealed on Friday.

The FAI board members were not compelled to appear at the hearing, though their decision has received criticism.

Speaking today, senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the FAI choosing not to appear before the Oireachtas Committee is “a major mistake”.

He said that “not only do we have a financial problem, but we have a major attitude problem as well”.

Sports Minister Shane Ross was similarly critical of the association on Monday.

“We don’t trust the FAI, we don’t trust them with the money, we’ve withdrawn from them and we’re not going to give them any government money or taxpayers money,” he told Virgin Media News.

“We must be absolutely certain that we don’t give money to an organisation which is in tatters. And the FAI is, and I think everybody would agree, it’s a basket case, a financial basket case.”

Additional reporting by Gráinne Ní Aodha

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Paul Fennessy

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