On Wednesday morning FAI president Donal Conway, former chief executive and current executive vice-president John Delaney, senior board members Páraic Treanor and Eddie Murray and interim chief executive Rea Walshe will go before an Oireachtas Committee to discuss several matters surrounding the organisation.
Following on from Sport Ireland's announcement on Tuesday afternoon that they were suspending funding to the FAI, here are some of the issues likely to be raised.
1) Why was the €100,000 'bridging loan' from John Delaney to the FAI necessary and why were Sport Ireland not informed?
This will be the start of a real grilling on this transaction and something which still hasn’t been completely clarified. The committee will seek to find out:
- Why did an organisation with a €50m turnover require such a small loan?
- How often have the FAI entered such periods of crisis in relation to cash flow?
- Why could a financial institution not provide it? Did the FAI exhaust all sources of credit available to it and how often does this happen?
- Why were Sport Ireland not informed the Association was experiencing financial difficulties, as per the terms of state grants? This led to the suspension of funding to the FAI from the authority on Tuesday.
2) Can John Delaney outline the exact timeline of the 'bridging loan'?
The loan controversy has opened up into several facets. So much so that the FAI referred to it as a "payment" and "issue" this week.
At the beginning of the story uncovered by The Sunday Times, the FAI released a statement saying "the bridging loan was made in the best interests of the FAI... when it experienced a short-term cash flow issue.
"The Board of the FAI has been kept fully informed in relation to this matter at all times."
Fast forward three weeks and president Donal Conway said recent comments made by FAI did not accurately reflect the Board’s level of awareness of the existence of the €100,000 issue in 2017.
This appears to indicate a breakdown of communication between Delaney in his role as chief executive and the FAI board; expect the committee to seek clarity on this, given it is such a major issue for the association now.
3) What level of expenses have the FAI afforded to John Delaney in his time as chief executive and who signs off on them?
Given the organisation have had cost-cutting initiatives that affected employees such as regional development officers and lower-level staff, it raises questions over governance and how appropriate it was for the association to pay almost €36,000 in rent expenses for such a highly-paid employee.
SIPTU have asked for answers on this practice, keeping in mind the FAI were engaged in a long negotiation over pay restoration.
"Our members had to wait until January of this year to receive the final restoration of their pay after long and difficult negotiations between [FAI] management and SIPTU representatives."
The union questioned why the FAI had an "adequately paid CEO while at the same time stating that it could not find the monies to restore the earnings of workers who were dedicated to developing football in communities across the country."
It’s likely the president will be asked whether the practice will continue.
4) Do the board still have confidence in Mr Delaney and do they think the public do?
The FAI will be keen to maintain Delaney’s influence from his position in UEFA, but it carries a significant burden as well. Delaney’s new role as executive vice president makes the job much less appealing, as demonstrated by Niall Quinn in his thoughts on applying for the vacancy as chief executive.
"Under absolutely no circumstances will I be applying for the job given the current remit of where this job sits," said Quinn.
"I don't think it reads as a CEO role at all - I think it reads as half a CEO role and anybody going in there will have a huge shadow over them because the departing CEO has not departed at all and it would make life very, very difficult."
There is no doubt many other candidates will feel a similar way and the committee will likely raise issues around it because it’s a key appointment.
But Delaney dangled the following carrot when the announcement of his role as EVP came: "I have been involved with the UEFA Strategy Group planning the future of the governing body between now and 2024 and I know that all that experience will benefit Irish football going forward."
He plans to be involved in:
- A bid for the European Under 21 Championships in 2023.
- A bid to host the UEFA Women’s Champions League final at the Aviva Stadium
- A proposed bid to co-host the 2030 World Cup finals with England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland which is currently in the preliminary stage
- The centralised TV deal with UEFA
There is a genuine value in this for the FAI, but the committee will ask whether FAI president Conway feels this saga has gone on too long..
5) Why did the FAI deem it necessary to commission three separate reports on their governance and finances in such a short period of time?
A report from Jonathan Hall Associates recommended the appointment of an executive vice-president by the FAI and it was adopted by the board and announced in the wake of the Gibraltar game.
The FAI have appointed auditors Mazars to conduct an "independent and in-depth external review" of their organisation and Grant Thornton have been in Abbotstown since last week for an internal review of the books, records and ledgers.
This, on paper, will be seen as a good thing. But again it is one the Oireachtas Committee will seek more information and given some of the reports are not finished, it might be difficult to get sufficient answers for the committee.