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'I don't believe I should be the story' - FAI Chair Barrett dismisses questions over bank links

Roy Barrett has revealed he did not apply for the position at the FAI, but was recommended to recruiters by the Chairman of the Bank of Ireland.

Roy Barrett, the FAI Chairperson.
Roy Barrett, the FAI Chairperson.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated Sep 1st 2020, 7:44 AM

THE FAI’S EGM membership voted overwhelmingly in favour of a series of rule changes that allows them to draw down a €35 million State bailout and avoid insolvency, but hopes the press conference could draw a line under a fraught few weeks were dashed as the majority of questions centred upon the revelation that FAI Independent Chairperson Roy Barrett was recommended for the role by the Chairman of the Bank of Ireland, Patrick Kennedy. 

With the FAI facing insolvency, Barrett negotiated a new loan agreement with Bank of Ireland in January, but he says his being recommended by Kennedy does not represent a conflict of interest. 

“There seems to a conspiracy theory around it but it’s nonsense to suggest conflict of interest”, said Barrett. 

Later, Barrett agreed the issue had overshadowed the night.

“I’ve become the story and I don’t believe I should be the story.”

Barrett tonight confirmed he did not apply for his position at the FAI, and was instead approached by recruitment firm, Amrop. They told him he had been recommended to them by a number of people, one of whom was Patrick Kennedy. (Barrett does not know the identity of the other people who recommended him.)

Barrett said he did not speak to Kennedy before he was approached by Amrop, spoke to him briefly the evening he was first approached and has not spoken with Kennedy about the FAI since.

roy-barrett Barrett speaking outside the FAI offices following the EGM. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

In January, Barrett and the FAI agreed a restructured, €52.5 million loan facility with Bank of Ireland. 

The final repayment of a loan of €28.5 million, secured against the Aviva Stadium, was pushed out from June 2021 to March 2030, with annual repayments reduced by just over €2 million. 

The bank also offered an additional loan of €14 million, which will be repaid out of Uefa TV Contracts at a rate of €2.5 million a year from March, 2022. 

The FAI also secured a €10 million revolving credit facility with Bank of Ireland, which allows them to increase the additional loan by the end of next year.

The FAI did not secure a debt writedown in their deal with Bank of Ireland, a fact raised during the EGM by Mick Wallace. 

Although Uefa are effectively guarantors on up to €24 million of the total loan, Barrett says at no stage did he believe he needed to inform the European governing body that he was recommended for his position at the FAI by a senior Bank of Ireland figure. 

“It would have been an important thing [to inform Uefa of] if it in any way compromised my position vis a vis Uefa, the FAI, Bank of Ireland or anybody else. This was a simple recommendation to a head hunter.”

Barrett says he does not envisage this becoming an issue with Uefa. 

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“I don’t believe they will make anything of it at all. No conflict or dilemma existed in my mind. In the overall scheme of things, I would say, Uefa, Fifa, government, Sport Ireland and the organisation are very happy with the role that Bank of Ireland played in making a commitment to help fund the organisation.” 

FAI president Gerry McAnaney, also present at the press conference, said the recommendation by Patrick Kennedy has not yet been discussed by the Board of Management, although he said he was satisfied by Barrett’s explanation of the situation. 

Barrett acknowledged he could understand if this was perceived by others as a conflict of interest, but doesn’t agree. 

I can understand it but I find it hard accepting it. I’m not used to people approaching me for jobs or taking up roles so in the circumstances it was an unusual enough position. People can take whatever view they want on it. All I can is say how it happened, what I thought about it, and I didn’t think of it above and beyond that.

“All I can say, once again, is that my conscience is very clear on the whole thing.” 

Barrett said the FAI’s engaging a different banking partner was not an option given the severity of their financial position, and said he is satisfied by the agreed terms. 

Speaking later on Off the Ball, interim CEO Gary Owens admitted that he “would accept the point of a potential conflict of interest” around Kennedy’s recommending Barett for the role. 

After weeks of tension and criticism, the FAI’s membership voted 94% in favour of a series of rule changes that will allow the Association to draw down a State bailout, avoid going bust, and protect jobs at the FAI. 

State funding will now be doubled to €5.8 million, and the Association can now also avail of an interest-free annual loan of €2.7 million to meet repayments on the Aviva Stadium. They will also gain access to around €10 million of the State’s Covid-19 relief fund. 

The contentious split of the board to comprise six football directors and six independents was agreed in last night’s vote, although the term that demands Council members with more than 10 years’ service step down has been removed. 

Meanwhile, Barrett was unable to give any further clarity on Niall Quinn’s role at the FAI. Quinn’s contract as Interim Deputy CEO has expired, and he said last week he had been asked to stay on until the EGM was held. 

Barrett has endured a bruising couple of months at the FAI, and was last week asked to resign by Council member Larry Bass, who sits on an FAI Finance Committee that has yet to meet. 

When asked if he believes his position remains tenable among the membership, he said, “That is entirely up to the membership in due course. I am entirely satisfied that I have behaved in a very transparent way with all of the stakeholders and I believe that the funding package that was achieved was as good an outcome that could be achieved in the circumstances and probably better than most people would have expected at the time. 

“It’s been a difficult process, a bruising process, there have been lots of debates and discussions. The outcome of all of that was the votes that were taken this evening. 94% of the people who voted feel that, on balance, they are the right reforms for the Association. 

“I’ve no issue with people wanting to be critical of me and what I do, I accept their entitlement.

“All I am going to do is to continue to do the best I can for the organisation. I’ve no doubt, given what I experienced in the last couple of months, a lot of stuff is going to come in for criticism. I don’t agree with a lot of the criticism, though.” 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from FAI HQ, Abbottstown

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