Ryan Byrne/INPHO

State funding to the FAI suspended over issues relating to CEO's pay

The FAI say the issues have been addressed.

STATE FUNDING TO the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has been suspended as Sport Ireland identified a possible breach of the terms of the FAI’s Memorandum of Understanding (the MOU) with the government.

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

The MOU secured a State bailout of the FAI in return for a series of governance overhauls at the football body. It was signed in 2020 and expires at the end of this year. As part of this MOU, Sport Ireland regularly engage with the FAI, and conduct audit tests.

As part of that process, Sport Ireland identified a potential breach of an MOU term which states that the FAI CEO’s remuneration must be in line with government pay guidelines, and must not exceed that of the Secretary-General of a government department. (The secretary-general of the Department of the Taoiseach was paid €215,998 in 2022.)

Sport Ireland appointed audit firm KOSI to review payments made to CEO Hill.  Senior sources at the FAI have told The 42 that neither the CEO’s salary nor total remuneration has exceeded that of a secretary-general. 

The KOSI review identified two issues relating to Hill’s pay, however.

One was relating to the calculation of benefit-in-kind due relating to Hill’s commuting expenses in 2022. Hill commutes to work from his home in England, and while it was initially envisaged that he would move to Ireland on a permanent basis, he has remained in England for personal family reasons. It is understood that Hill is now paying this money back this year, and he is now paying all of his accommodation and travel costs directly to avoid the situation arising again. 

The second issue related to payments taken by Hill in exchange of unpaid annual leave. It is understood this has now been reversed and explained by the FAI to Hill. FAI sources say the FAI and Hill are fully tax compliant. 

In a statement to The 42, Sport Ireland said, “In January 2020 the Government of Ireland and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in respect of a funding package to the FAI for the period 2020-2023. 

“The MOU sets out the terms upon which funding support is provided and encompasses requirements for the FAI to meet and implement over 160 recommendations and conditions. Sport Ireland has been tasked to oversee, review and critically assess the FAI’s implementation of and adherence to the requirements of the MOU for the period 2020-2023. This process includes regular engagement and audit testing.

“Since 2020, over €60m has been issued in public funding to the FAI by Sport Ireland. Good progress has been made by the FAI in recent years, however, there still remains work to be completed by the FAI on fully embedding good governance practices and reforms.

“There has been a delay in the release of funding to the FAI, pending necessary clarification of compliance by the FAI with aspects of the MOU. Sport Ireland has recently received additional information and assurances from the FAI on actions they plan to take and hope to be in a position to release funding to the FAI shortly.

“For the benefit of football in Ireland it is important that the FAI implement and sustain best governance practices to enable them to lead and support vital grassroots work and the development of the game at all levels. Sport Ireland will continue to support the reform of the FAI in accordance with the MOU.” 

Meanwhile, an FAI spokesperson told The 42, “The FAI enjoys a strong and open relationship with Sport Ireland and is working hard to implement all the recommended governance reforms outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding set by the Government in 2020. The Association has implemented the vast majority of the 164 recommendations in full and the remainder are close to completion.

“The FAI has an ongoing dialogue with Sport Ireland given their oversight role of the MOU implementation and recently Sport Ireland sought clarification in relation to one of those recommendations relating to the treatment by the FAI at source regarding benefit in kind payments and pay in lieu of annual holiday to the CEO.

“The FAI has discussed this issue in detail with Sport Ireland and all the requested actions have been agreed to by the FAI.” 

Gerry McAnaney, President of the FAI said; “The FAI enjoys a positive relationship with Sport Ireland and the leadership team of the Association has worked tirelessly to implement the recommendations and governance reforms outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding set by the Government. This particular situation in question is now being resolved and I wish to make it clear that this was a technical financial interpretation, and the CEO was not responsible for this matter.”

The FAI yesterday failed to pass a motion at an EGM which would allow them adjust their board so as to meet a government mandate to have a minimum of 40% female representation on their board. Failure to make the change by the end of the year risks a loss of 50% of next year’s State funding to the football body, along with a 50% cut to sports capital grants. The FAI is currently mired in debts of almost €44 million.