Europe

John Delaney defends controversial 100,000 euro loan to FAI

John Delaney Image copyright INPHO
Image caption John Delaney gave a loan of 100,000 euros to the FAI in 2017

A former chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has said he loaned it 100,000 euros so it could avoid exceeding its overdraft.

John Delaney was appearing before an Oireachtas (parliamentary) committee examining the organisation's financial and governance arrangements.

Mr Delaney loaned the FAI the money in April 2017.

The loan was not flagged to Sport Ireland, which oversees the public funding of sporting organisations.

It is suspending funding to the FAI as a result.

Mr Delaney told the committee he was informed by FAI finance officials that there were no anticipated incoming funds that could have covered a potential shortfall in 2017.

"As the matter was pressing and we only had a few hours to resolve the potential issues that would arise if the bank overdraft limit was exceeded, as a precautionary measure and to assist the FAI, I wrote a cheque for 100,000 euro from my personal account to the FAI," he said

"I did not receive any interest payment and I would never have expected it, I was only acting to assist the FAI and the benefit of Irish football."

He said he made clear the cheque should only be lodged if it became clear that the 1.5m euros (£1.29m) overdraft was going to exceeded.

"At the meeting I expressed concern and surprise at how the FAI could have arrived at this position," he said.

The loan was repaid in June of that year, he said.

'Truly saddened'

Mr Delaney said he was "truly saddened" that Sport Ireland, which provides annual funding of 2.9m euros (£2.49m) to the FAI, had temporarily withdrawn that support.

He said he wanted to see a "speedy response" to Sport Ireland's concerns.

Mr Delaney criticised some members of the committee who he said had "made highly prejudicial public pronouncements about me personally prior to my attendance here today".

'Trust and confidence'

Also at the committee hearing, the president of the FAI said three members of the FAI board knew about Mr Delaney's loan at the time, while the rest found out in March of this year.

Some of the members of the committee said they found this "astonishing" and "strange".

Image caption Donal Conway also appeared before the Irish parliamentary committee

FAI president Donal Conway also acknowledged that the association needs to "rebuild trust and confidence".

In his opening statement to the committee, Mr Conway said: "I know we have much work to do to rebuild trust and confidence in the association, and we are committed to achieving this as a board."

He said the FAI was facing the prospect in April 2017 that if everybody it issued cheques to presented them for payment, there would have been "insufficient funds".

"This was a short-term issue and there was legitimate expectation of funds coming to the association from various schemes, such as ticket sales," he said.

"Sport is a very different business to others - the qualification stage process of football is unique.

"Financial fluctuations are the norm and cash flow is often irregular."

The board acknowledged that the 100,000 euros transaction was exceptional and was paid back by 16 June, added Mr Conway.

"No contractor agreement was entered into by the association or chief executive, no charges were paid or levied by the FAI," he said.

Insolvency

Later, Fine Gael TD Noel Rock asked Mr Conway: "Given at the time, you couldn't honour all cheques issued, would it be your view that the FAI were close to being effectively insolvent?"

Mr Conway replied: "I wouldn't, I draw your attention to our accounts each year, we've had nine years of profit, cash flow, as I say, can be a challenge to manage but because of the timing of revenue streams does make it difficult, but it doesn't mean you can conclude it was insolvent."

Mr Delaney, the former FAI chief executive, left his position at the end of March as he stepped into a newly created association role of executive vice-president.

Mr Conway told politicians that Mr Delaney's new role would "benefit Irish football".

"John Delaney has been appointed executive vice-president in order to effectively utilise his skills and connections at Uefa and Fifa level," he said.

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