PJ Cunningham: John Delaney, the FAI and that €100,000 loan

PJ Cunningham John Delaney the FAI and that 100,000 loan
17 March 2019; John Delaney, CEO, Football Association of Ireland, at the Three FAI International Awards at RTE Studios in Donnybrook, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

By PJ Cunningham 

There is something that doesn’t sit quie right surrounding the €100,000 loan between John Delaney and the FAI which came out in a Sunday newspaper at the weekend.

As the top man, as CEO of the association, Delaney loaned his employer the money two years ago and had it paid back two months later in June of 1917.

Now not for one second am I suggesting that there was anything untoward going on – but there is something curious about the case.

The first odd thing about such an altruistic jesture is that the FAI leader would think it necessary to go all the way to the High Court on Saturday night in an attempt to injunct the Sunday Times from carrying the story.

In other words, he didn’t want you and I to know that this transaction had ever taken place.

Why would you want to risk losing and pay out the newspapers costs – as happened – if your efforts through the legal route turned out to be unsuccessful?

The judge thought the newspaper was within its remit of bringing something of merit into the public domain – and the loser will have to cough up the legal fees.

A statement issued by the FAI explained that the €100,000 payment was a bridging loan, made to help the association through “a very short-term cash flow issue”, adding pointedly that it was the only occasion on which the CEO had loaned money to his employer.

So what was there to hide in the first place? Maybe it was because of what an expert in corporate governance described as “unprecedented”, in what had occured between employee and employer.

Speaking to the Irish Times on-line, Mr Alan McDonnell of Good Governance Solutions said: “In an organisation like the FAI, which is not a commercial organisation as such, it’s a national governing body of a sport, for an executive or director to be making a loan to such an organisation is unprecedented.”

He added that Sports Ireland or a bank or lender should have been approached to raise the money.

Another significant fact was highlighted by UCD professor Niamh Brennan when she pointed out that it would normally be expected that such transactions around such a loan would have appeared in the FAI accounts.

“From a technical point of view, it’s what’s called a related party transaction, so you would expect it to be disclosed,” she stressed.

The fallout surrounding the transaction lured the FAI out of its normal reluctance to comment on association business by issuing a second statement on Sunday evening, in which Delaney said the payment of the short term bridging loan, “had no impact on the full financial position or performance of the association for the year. It was a matter of timing”.

He added: “The monies received from EURO 2016 were utilised in that year’s budgets as outlined in the financial report to the 2017 AGM.”

The CEO said he acted at all times in good faith for the benefit of the FAI and he would continue to do so.

It was also disclosed that the FAI board had recently commissioned an external counsultant to undertake a ‘full review’ of its executive governance and senior management structures who would report its findings next month.

Neither Delaney or Sports Minister, Shane Ross would comment on the issue further on Sunday night when at the FAI Player of the Year awards were announced at a function in Dublin.

Despite the silence, somehow I don’t think we have heard the last of this.


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