SPORT IRELAND chief executive John Treacy has indicated that he has lost confidence in the board of the FAI after their response to the recent crisis that has enveloped Irish football’s governing body.
Treacy was speaking at Sport Ireland’s appearance in front of the Oireachtas Committee on Sport, a four-hour affair that highlighted the extent to which the statutory body are unimpressed with the FAI’s response to revelations that John Delaney gave his employer a €100,000 loan in 2017.
They also hinted strongly at dissatisfaction with the creation of a new Executive Vice President role within the FAI for Delaney after he stepped down as CEO.
Treacy stressed that Sport Ireland have reservations about the balance of power if Delaney retains strong influence.
“There can only be one chief executive,” he said, on more than occasion, while coming under questioning from the committee.
The visiting delegation started off proceedings by detailing how they had received further correspondence from the FAI in response to letters from Sport Ireland seeking clarification on the circumstances behind the €100,000 loan in April 2017.
The letter was hand delivered this morning ahead of this afternoon’s meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport and Treacy criticised the Football Association of Ireland for the timing and contents.
Ultimately, the response – which was signed by FAI President Donal Conway – did not shed any light on this matter. The Abbotstown board said they would have to wait until they get the results of an external review they have commissioned from global auditing firm Mazars before doing so.
That is not acceptable to Treacy and Sport Ireland who will make that point in a letter they send to the FAI tomorrow.
“We will be raising the context of the letter which falls far short of what was expected by Sport Ireland,” Mr Treacy told the Committee.
“The letter does not provide any explanation on the circumstances of the loan and its repayment. The board of the FAI has not provided any legitimate reason to why it cannot provide the information requested.
“In the absence of adjudication as to whether the terms and conditions of grant approval have been complied with, we still await an explanation on the circumstances around the loan and its repayment.”
“We think we should be able to get an answer quicker than that,” he added. “The circumstances of the loan, how it was paid back, the need for it. It shouldn’t be too hard to explain. We were extremely disappointed by the letter.
“We are asking questions. We aren’t getting answers. What we have got today is totally inadequate.”
Kieran Mulvey, the chairperson of Sport Ireland, said they still have ‘no idea’ about the background.
When pressed by Sinn Fein TD Imelda Munster on whether he retained confidence in the board of the FAI, Treacy paused and eventually replied: “Well I’m not saying, yes.”
He said that Sport Ireland would wait until the response before deciding upon a course of action, and admitted they would be reluctant to cut funding because of the impact it would have on athletes and rank and file employees.
However, that nuclear option was not ruled out, with Sport Ireland set to meet next Tuesday and hoping for better correspondence from the FAI in the intervening period.
“There are powers that are there but we are reluctant to use them,” said Treacy.
In response to questioning from Fine Gael TD Noel Rock – who has called for a cessation of funding due to what he views as the FAI’s delaying tactics – Sport Ireland confirmed that the FAI had requested early drawdown of grants over the past four years.
Treacy acknowledged this was evidence of cashflow issues within the association.
“We are aware there are cashflow issues within the FAI…I think that would be well known inside sport,” he said.
Committee participants on both sides of the table discussed the limitations that are in place when it comes to monitoring affairs in Abbotstown. “The weakness of the law is clear. We need to ensure greater accountability,” said committee chair Fergus O’Dowd TD in his closing comments.
“If you don’t regulate the FAI then who does?” said Irish Solidarity People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger, who raised the issue of Delaney’s €360,000 salary while he was CEO.
She asked Treacy if he found it strange that the CEO of the FAI would earn more than the Taoiseach. “Yeah, we did think it was strange,” replied the former athlete.
Mulvey acknowledged that the FAI could argue it was underfunded and said that, in their defence, they make ‘extraordinary use’ of the grant funding they are given.
Sport Ireland’s primary aim is the security and return of investment on the €2.9m in exchequer funding invested in the FAI annually.
But the three person Sport Ireland delegation are concerned about issues in the area of governance and want answers ahead of the FAI’s appearance in front of the same committee next Wednesday.
“Today is not a good day for sport to be in here talking about governance within the FAI,” said Treacy, who urged the Oireachtas Committee to look for more detail on the loan when Delaney returns to the same room next week.
“You have the FAI coming in,” he said. “You can put those questions to the FAI. I strongly suggest you do that.”