Sunday 19 January 2020

Minister Ross calls FAI 'culturally sick' body

LOGGERHEADS: Shane Ross. Pic: Collins Photo Agency
LOGGERHEADS: Shane Ross. Pic: Collins Photo Agency

Minister for Sport Shane Ross has decided to sit out tomorrow's clash between an Oireachtas committee and the FAI.

And he will instead appear before the Oireachtas committee a week later as he says it would be "premature" to speak before he has heard what the FAI have to say, the minister claiming last night that the FAI was still a "sick body".

Meanwhile, former FAI General Secretary Brendan Menton has warned that the association could be looking at decades of financial strife on the back of liabilities of €55million.

"The bank debt is €28.2m. I think if there is any chance of survival the FAI will have to significantly increase the bank debt and push it out into the longer term. If it can be solved, this isn't going to take 15 years. It will be 20, 25 years," Menton told RTÉ radio.

Relations between the FAI and Ross are as bad as ever following the weekend's confirmation of a "mechanism" by Ross's office to provide €2million funding for wages to secure the jobs of 60 Community Development Officers.

Ross insists that "we cannot trust the FAI" with Government money and his department will instead divert the €2m fund via a third party to keep those community projects going.

"We are not prepared to give it to the FAI as that's throwing money down a black hole," Ross said.

That decision, and a previously announced plan to provide funding of €195,000 to the women's international team through a company (BDO), has angered FAI figures.

The FAI are unclear if the €2m is solely for the purposes of paying wages or if it will also include support for travel and sundry costs.

Staff at FAI HQ have also asked if there will be any financial support for them if they suffer pay cuts or redundancies.

Ross and the FAI would have clashed if asked to share the same stage at the Oireachtas tomorrow but that's off the agenda with Ross and his junior minister having decided not to attend.

Ross said last night he hoped to hear a promise of a "clear-out" by the FAI tomorrow.

"The board is still not cleared out of the old guard, that should be absolute and total," Ross told Virgin Media.

"They should come out with their hands up to the Committee so that everyone can hear how bad the situation is.

"It's not just financially sick. It's a culturally sick body."

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