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FAI express shock and disappointment at 'unfounded' SIPTU insolvency claim

The trade union are seeking an urgent meeting with Sports minister Shane Ross as they warn of potential job losses at the football body.

Flags flying outside the FAI offices in Abbottstown.
Flags flying outside the FAI offices in Abbottstown.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated May 15th 2019, 4:45 PM

THE FAI HAVE expressed their ‘shock and disappointment’ regarding today’s statement from SIPTU in which the trade union warned Irish football’s governing body was in “an extremely precarious financial situation with a threat of the organisation becoming insolvent in only a matter of weeks”.

A response from the FAI labelled SIPTU’s claims “unfounded”, and stated that with Uefa’s support, there would be no threat to the FAI’s operations or staff.

The statement read: “The Board of the Football Association of Ireland is both shocked and disappointed by today’s statement from SIPTU and their unfounded claims regarding the FAI’s financial situation.

“At a positive meeting of the FAI Council this afternoon, President Donal Conway outlined how the FAI had recently engaged with Uefa when assurances were given regarding their support for the Association.

President Conway said: ‘As I outlined to our Council meeting today, we recently met with Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin and Director of National Associations Zoran Lakovic. At that meeting in Nyon, they assured us of the full support of Uefa for the FAI as we go through our current processes. Uefa’s support will ensure the continued viability of the Football Association of Ireland and there is no threat to FAI Operations or to FAI staff.’

SIPTU said earlier on Wednesday that they have received information that the FAI’s finances are in an “extremely precarious financial situation”, adding that the football body are faced with a threat of “becoming insolvent in only a matter of weeks.”

The Union, which represents FAI staff employed as development officers, coaches and administrators along with players through their affiliation with the PFAI, are calling for a meeting with Sports Minister Shane Ross to mitigate against what they term a “critical situation”, that represents a risk to jobs at the FAI. 

“SIPTU representatives are seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, to discuss the threat to jobs in the FAI due to the precarious financial situation of the organisation”, a statement read. 

SIPTU Sport Sector Organiser, Denis Hynes, said: “We have received information that the FAI is in an extremely precarious financial situation with a threat of the organisation becoming insolvent in only a matter of weeks. This has caused great concern to our members who are employed by the FAI.

While we fully understand that under Fifa rules the government does not have a role in the running of the organisation we believe that with up to 200 jobs at risk the situation is one that requires the direct attention of the Minister Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross.

“We are seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister to directly inform him of our concerns and discuss any possible intervention that can be made to alleviate this critical situation.”

The FAI have been engulfed in crisis since March, when it emerged that then-Chief Executive John Delaney loaned the FAI €100,000 to cover a cash flow issue in April 2017. The loan was repaid in full two months later. 

Sport Ireland, however, suspended state funding to the FAI given their failure to disclose the loan, which they say breaks the agreed terms and conditions of grant approval.

Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy has said funding will be restored only when they are satisfied by reforms to the FAI’s governance.

That process is ongoing, with two FAI staff sitting with three Sport Ireland nominees on a governance review committee tasked with recommending changes to how the Association is run. They are expected to return their recommendations at the end of June, ahead of the FAI AGM in July.

The present board have agreed to stand down at that AGM. 

The FAI are also currently subject to a series of expensive reviews and investigations.

They have commissioned Grant Thornton to review their books, while the firm Mazars are conducting an extensive audit of the Association.

The FAI are also subject to what John Treacy termed “substantial” enquiries from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

They were due to meet with Fifa today over the ongoing crisis, as well as the meeting of the FAI Council, the body of more than 50 people from which the next Board will be drawn under current rules. 

It was announced earlier today that Paul Cooke, a vocal critic of John Delaney and the FAI in the past and nominated to run unopposed to be the FAI’s next Treasurer, has been appointed to the sub-committee tasked with overseeing ongoing investigations and procedures at the FAI.

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Gavin Cooney

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