herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

Report fever for the FAI

Governance review findings due on Friday first of many to come

'That report will call for the biggest overhaul in the association's 98-year history.' Stock photo
'That report will call for the biggest overhaul in the association's 98-year history.' Stock photo

Mick McCarthy joked at the start of this week that he was happy to be "going on my holidays" with ten points tucked away by the senior international team from their first four games of the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Many of the staffers toiling away in Abbotstown, the HQ of McCarthy's employers in the FAI, won't have the luxury of a long stint on the beach this summer, as this is one of the most intense periods in the association's history.

There was a taste of that in the FAI offices yesterday morning. Noel Mooney, whose title is 'General Manager for Football Services and Partnerships' but who is effectively the CEO, addressed staff at a breakfast meeting which was called to mark the fact that in a year's time (today, to be precise), a game at the Euro 2020 finals will be played in Dublin.

With so much time being spent on the numerous probes into the FAI's financial and governance affairs (see panel), it's easy to forget that there is still work to be done in terms of football and planning for Euro 2020 is just one of those, though most of the work on that project is being handled by Declan Conroy, not an FAI staffer but a long-time consultant.

The first of the probes into the FAI has reached its first stage, as a draft report by the Governance Review Group was presented to the FAI board this week, and a final report will be issued next Friday, once the FAI's directors, UEFA, FIFA and Sport Ireland have had their say.

That report will call for the biggest overhaul in the association's 98-year history. Long seen as pale, male and stale, the report will call for a minimum of four females on a 12-person board.

It will obliterate the current elective system where people can work their way through the world of blazerdom and earn a place on the FAI board no matter their level of experience or expertise, where someone could be given the post of Honorary Treasurer for a body with a €50million turnover and yet have no financial qualification.

But it will be up to the current membership of the FAI, the 61-strong Senior Council which feeds into the board of directors, to vote for change at their AGM next month, with no guarantee that a two-thirds majority will opt for change.

Within a month, reports commissioned by the FAI from Mazars and Grant Thornton should be concluded, but the more important probes of all, those of Kosi and the ODCE (Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement), will be more telling. "What we are hearing is even more damaging than we had thought, and it will have serious legal consequences," said a senior source familiar with the ongoing probes.

There a new face of the current FAI seen this week. On Tuesday, former Ireland manager Eoin Hand was in Limerick to attend the launch of the National Football Exhibition. Hand played for Ireland 20 times and managed the team from 1980-85, including the side which narrowly missed out on the 1982 World Cup finals. He also managed Limerick to a league title in 1980, so his presence at an FAI event in the city should not be a surprise.

But for a long spell, Hand was persona non grata with the FAI, a consequence - he felt - of an unfair dismissal case he took against the FAI in 2013, having lost his position as career advice officer.

A 'remember the day' piece in the match programme for a senior international some years ago was dropped as it contained an interview with Hand, and Hand said his access to complimentary match tickets, which he was entitled to as a former manager, was cut off. He didn't name John Delaney but he said in a 2017 interview that his "horrible" finish with the FAI was "down to one man and the stance he took about not renewing a contract".

The fact that Hand is now invited to FAI events again hints at change. But few in the FAI are prepared for the avalanche that is to come when those reports emerge.

KPMG

What's going on?

KPMG have been brought in to assist the FAI over the hacking which occurred last weekend. A team of forensic scientists from their cyber crime section is working with the FAI's IT department to assess the damage done.

Kosi

What's going on?

The firm were appointed by Sport Ireland to look at how state funding was dealt with by the FAI, "To assess compliance of the FAI with respect to the Terms and Conditions set out by Sport Ireland in relation to the award of grants, between 2015-2018." But they have a broader scope where they will have access to all financial records, contract employment details for FAI staff etc.

Mazars

What's going on?

Appointed by the FAI a full 11 weeks ago, the FAI said Mazars were "commissioned to conduct an independent and in-depth external review of all matters".

Grant Thornton

What's going on?

Grant Thornton were appointed by the FAI "to conduct an internal review of the Association's books, records and ledgers", Grant Thornton staff beginning work on site at the FAI on April 2nd.

ODCE

What's going on?

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement became involved when Deloitte, the FAI's auditors, expressed concerns, issuing a H4 notice, a rare but very serious occurrence. The scope for the ODCE inquiry is limitless.

Oireachtas sport Committee

What's going on?

Nothing at the moment as the FAI have not been before the Oireachtas committee since April but moves are afoot to bring the FAI back before the committee.

FAI Governance Review Group

What's going on?

Acting on feedback from FAI staff, stakeholders inside the game and the general public, the GRG have this week presented a draft report, centred on a complete overhaul of the FAI's structures, to the FAI, while the draft has also been sent to Sport Ireland, UEFA and FIFA. The GRG will meet again next Monday and compile a final report.

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