Entire FAI board should be replaced, say Irish soccer fans in UK

Former FAI chief executive John Delaney on his way into a Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport today. (Photo:Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie)

The entire FAI board should be replaced for “disrespecting” fans amid the current crisis engulfing the association, supporters’ clubs in the UK have said.

John Delaney, the FAI’s former CEO, is to “voluntarily step aside” from the football association pending the “outcome” of a full review after renewed pressure for him to resign.

Shane Ross, Ireland’s Minister for Transport and Sport, announced today that the FAI board were intending to resign their positions by July.

This follows last week’s revelations when it emerged that most of the FAI’s board were kept in the dark for almost two years about a €100,000 payment made by Delaney to the governing body in 2017.

Delaney wrote the association a €100,000 cheque, which he and the organisation have described as a bridging loan, The Sunday Times disclosed last month. The FAI has now commissioned two reports into the circumstances surrounding the €100,000 cheque.

Sport Ireland has suspended all its funding to the FAI over the controversy as a result. The government has also threatened to withhold millions of euros of public funding until concerns over the association’s corporate governance are addressed.

Chairman of the Irish Sports Council, Kieran Mulvey and Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy (Mobile Phone) on their way into the Dail to a joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport to discuss governance, oversight and scrutiny with Sport Ireland. (Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie)

Delaney, who has been a target of ire from Irish soccer fans for years for alleged mismanagement of the organisation and over perceived exorbitant wages, was appointed FAI executive vice-president after stepping down as chief executive following the disclosures.

He then declined to answer a number of questions at the committee, citing legal advice, which has drawn widespread criticism from former players, managers, supporters clubs, local leagues and players’ representative groups.

Denis Grennell, president of the Liverpool Republic of Ireland Soccer Supporters Club, said that although Delaney had done some “excellent work” in his role, he believes that the entire board have acted like “a cartel” in their stonewalling of the Oireachtas committee and should be replaced.

“Change can be good especially with the board of the FAI, and a new board will bring fresh ideas and a more modern approach to how they should steer the FAI…the FAI have let themselves down, they have shown complete disrespect for the committee and fans by the refusal to give us all some straight answers regarding the current situation,” Grennell told the Irish World.

“The impression they have given is that the organisation is run somewhat like a cartel and change is required throughout the whole organisation. I have concerns why an organisation with an annual turnover of 50 million needed a short term loan of 100k from an employee.”

The Sunday Times revealed last weekend that Delaney, who was the FAI’s chief executive for 14 years before taking up a new role, accumulated almost €40,000 of spending on food, clothing and cash withdrawals on his work credit card in the last six months of 2016.

(Photo:Leah Farrell/Rollngnews.ie)

The London supporters club, which is a member of the Confederation of Republic of Ireland Supporters Clubs (CRSSC), declined to comment but referred the Irish World to the following CRISC statement after last week’s proceedings.

“[We] are concerned at the lack of purposeful engagement by the FAI at today’s Oireachtas Committee meeting. It is imperative that confidence is restored on governance of the FAI and any funding that has been cut is reinstated. Today fell short of achieving those goals,” it said.

League of Ireland football players, meanwhile, have called for reform of the “rotten” Football Association of Ireland after “a new low point for Irish football”.

PFA Ireland, the professional footballers’ association, said that the governance of the FAI needed to be overhauled and its finances “forensically examined” in the wake of the controversy surrounding John Delaney, former chief executive.

Brian Kerr, a former manager of the national men’s football team, now a sports pundit on Virgin Media, said that the hearings were an “embarrassment” to Irish football.

“The FAI had the opportunity today to be open, transparent, humble and truthful. What we actually got was evasion, arrogance, dodging and weaving, and I would say, large doses of spoofology, when it applies to the questions that they were given,” he said.

In an unusual intervention, the association’s main sponsor, telecoms giant Three Ireland, said it regards good corporate governance as being of the “utmost importance”.

Leo Varadkar (Photograph: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie)

In its first statement since the Oireachtas hearings into the FAI, the company said it expects the same standards of corporate governance “from all partners we work with”.

Even the Taoiseach has chimed in, quizzing the FAI’s inability at times to answer seemingly straightforward questions last week. Varadkar said that “no one could be satisfied” with how the former chief executive acquitted himself during the seven-hour hearing.

Locally in Ireland, tensions are rising. Leinster Senior League, one of the country’s largest amateur leagues, has held meetings to consider whether its clubs wanted the FAI board to resign.

The FAI have claimed that the board had been kept informed of the controversial transaction but last week it distanced itself from those comments, saying that they did not “accurately reflect” its awareness of the payment.

“I would appoint a new CEO and put it out to tender to attract a whole host of candidates and I would replace the board,” Grennell said.

By Colin Gannon


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