herald

Thursday 21 November 2019

Uefa and Fifa will come to FAI's aid in hour of need

Governing bodies ready to offer support to tune of €10million to ensure job safety

FAI President Donal Conway was praised by FAI council members for his openness in yesterday’s meeting at the association’s headquarters in Abbotstown
FAI President Donal Conway was praised by FAI council members for his openness in yesterday’s meeting at the association’s headquarters in Abbotstown

Financial support from UEFA will help the troubled FAI through their hour of need.

European football's governing body are prepared to give the Abbotstown association up to €10m to help them through a financial crisis.

FAI Council members were told yesterday that 'huge backing' from UEFA and FIFA should reassure employees about their futures.

No figures were given at the meeting, but it's understood that UEFA have undertaken to offering the necessary financial backing to ensure that the FAI stays solvent.

The football body has been engulfed in crisis since it emerged that ex-CEO John Delaney had given his employer a €100,000 bridging loan in 2017.

Six investigations are ongoing into affairs at the FAI, including a legal case taken by the ODCE and three audits into financial matters.

Statement

The cost of the various enquiries is a major concern and SIPTU released a statement yesterday which said they were seeking an urgent meeting with Minister for Sport Shane Ross as they believed 200 jobs were at risk.

"We have received information that the FAI is in an extremely precarious financial situation with a threat of the organisation becoming insolvent in only a matter of weeks," said SIPTU's Denis Hynes.

The FAI released a statement which said they were 'shocked and disappointed' by the comments from the trade union.

In the same missive, FAI President Donal Conway said that UEFA support 'will ensure the continued viability of the FAI and there is no threat to FAI operations or FAI staff.'

Sources have indicated that UEFA are prepared to function as a 'safety net' for the FAI, and they are willing to provide up to €10m to help the cash-strapped association.

They have also offered personnel to support the under-pressure FAI team.

Representatives from FIFA also met the FAI yesterday and offered backing. Bjorn Vassallo, a Director of FIFA Member Associations Europe, said: "Our main objective is to safeguard the autonomy of the FAI."

FIFA will meet officials from Sport Ireland today. They are keen to ensure that the Governance Review Group - which is made up of FAI and Sport Ireland appointed representatives - stays on the right side of rules which prevent government interference in football.

At the beginning of yesterday's FAI Council meeting, their first gathering since Delaney was sidelined pending the outcome of reviews, it was confirmed that Paul Cooke had joined the sub-committee of the FAI Board dealing with ongoing matters.

Former newspaper executive and qualified chartered accountant Cooke - a long term critic of Delaney - is the sole candidate to take over as Honorary Treasurer at July's AGM.

He was present at the Council meeting which he described as 'constructive.' The meeting was also addressed by Aidan Horan, the Sport Ireland appointed chair of the Governance Review Group.

Fairness

"I've been told that I'll get all the info that I need," said Cooke, who confirmed UEFA would be providing support.

"There was a different atmosphere there today and in fairness that's coming from Donal (Conway).

"Everybody was allowed to ask questions."

St Patrick's Athletic's Anthony Delaney said attendees were informed that 'if there are financial issues, then UEFA or FIFA are willing to fund them up to get them out of it.'

The Leinster Senior League's Dave Moran described it as the most positive meeting since he joined Council, praising the contributions of Conway and Horan.

"Aidan said that everything going forward will be more up front and more transparent. The governance will be much better," said Moran.

Meeting sources said that the position of Delaney was the 'elephant in the room' with only a handful of indirect references to the 51-year-old.

It's believed that Kerry's John O'Regan stressed that good work by Delaney during his tenure should not be forgotten.

Other delegates asserted that the current board should all step down at the AGM.

The Governance Review Group will present their report in June for consideration with a view to a new board being elected at the AGM.

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