Engagement with the Football Association of Ireland

I remind members to switch off their mobile phones as they interfere with the broadcasting equipment. The purpose of today's meeting is to consider governance issues, strategies and challenges facing Irish soccer. In this regard, I welcome Mr. Donal Conway, president of the board of the Football Association of Ireland, FAI, Mr. Eddie Murray, honorary treasurer, Mr. Paraic Treanor, chairman of the legal and corporate affairs committee, Ms Rea Walshe, interim CEO, Mr. John Delaney, executive vice president, Mr. Fran Gavin, competitions director, and Mr. Ruud Dokter, high performance director.

Before we commence, I will, as is the case for all of our meetings, read the notice relating to privilege and the evidence people may give. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they are to give to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

I invite Mr. Conway to make his opening statement.

Mr. Donal Conway

I thank the Chairman and members for the invitation to address the committee. Included in my presentation are details of those who are accompanying me. I will not read them out because the Chairman has already done so.

Originally, we were to appear in respect of governance issues, strategies and challenges facing Irish soccer and related matters.

While the focus may have changed due to events, we remain in a position to discuss any other matter relating to public funds received by the association and their application. We need to be mindful of our legal obligations and the remit of the committee and to respect the privacy and data protection rights of our employees and related parties.

Grant Thornton has been engaged by the board of the FAI to conduct an internal review of the association's books, records and ledgers. It has been on site at the FAI since yesterday week. I will reference it further in my statement.

The committee also asked for the attendance of the person filling the position of corporate affairs and licensing director. John Delaney has been appointed executive vice president. This is in order to utilise his skills and connections at UEFA and FIFA levels effectively. In the view of the board, this will be to the benefit of Irish football. In his place, Rea Walshe has been appointed interim chief executive officer. The board thanks her for stepping up to this role at short notice and at a difficult time. There has been no full-time person appointed to Ms Walshe's former role as yet. If I recall correctly, the committee had asked for that person to be present, but we have not made the appointment yet.

I wish to put on the record that no disrespect was intended to the committee or Sport Ireland by the FAI's letter of last week. Sport Ireland has been and is an important stakeholder for us. Its financial support and advice to us over 20 years have been unstinting and we were honoured to become the first national governing body to move onto the Abbotstown campus. We have much to do to rebuild trust and confidence in the association and we are committed to achieving this as a board.

The association notes the comments made last week by the committee and Sport Ireland and acknowledges their concerns. The board of the FAI met on Wednesday in a scheduled meeting. The board regretted that it was not in a position to assist Sport Ireland with answers to its questions before Sport Ireland attended the committee. We have since met Sport Ireland and continue to engage with it. We have emphasised to it that we are moving as fast as we can, being mindful of the complexity of the issues involved, including legal issues and the need to ensure that all statements we make are accurate and our internal and external processes are fair and robust. No disrespect was intended by the lateness of the letter of 2 April to Sport Ireland or its brief contents. I apologise for this and accept that more information would have assisted Sport Ireland and the committee.

The board is seeking to address the concerns raised fully and many steps are being taken to do so and to establish the requisite detail for Sport Ireland and the committee. The association has established a sub-committee from among its board members. This is working closely with the FAI's external advisers and auditors to address these matters urgently.

Regarding governance, members will be aware that the FAI has a governance group, which has assisted us in making some changes in compliance with the governance code. A number of policies and procedures were improved in 2018, including a code of conduct for board members, a schedule of reserved functions, a volunteers policy and a conflict of interest form. New Government guidelines on terms for board members apply from 2021. The association held an EGM this year where it voted to limit board members to eight years' service in line with the Government's governance code for community, voluntary and charitable organisations. On 7 February, the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, said-----

I am sorry, but is there a page missing?

Mr. Donal Conway

Yes. There was a page on-----

Is Mr. Conway on page 4?

I thank the Senator for drawing that to our attention. Mr. Conway can take his time. There is no rush.

Mr. Donal Conway

I had been talking about the sub-committee that had been established by the board from among its members. The next page related to that. There is the option for the board to appoint an independent person to the sub-committee. We have spoken to Sport Ireland regarding this. We have also offered to Sport Ireland the opportunity to meet the sub-committee, our finance department staff and Grant Thornton to go through the relevant accounts to assure it that all Government funding has been properly spent since the last audit.

Global auditing and consulting group Mazars has been commissioned by the sub-committee to conduct an independent and in-depth external review of all matters. The board has requested that this review be completed as soon as possible. Pending that review, the association has separately and urgently engaged Grant Thornton to conduct an internal review of its books, records and ledgers. Grant Thornton has been on site at the FAI in Abbotstown for the past eight days. Its involvement also allows the queries raised regarding the €100,000 issue from 2017 to be addressed so as to ensure that the response to queries is comprehensive and accurate. I will now read into the record Grant Thornton's view of the €100,000.

Do we have a copy of that?

Mr. Donal Conway

We have copies.

Is this new evidence? If so, we will suspend until after we have read it. Is that appropriate? We have not seen this. I will suspend the meeting until after everyone has read a copy.

I suggest that we continue.

I would like members to have an opportunity to read this. That would be appropriate. It will not take long, as it is only an A4 page. We can stay where we are and go into private session.

The joint committee went into private session at 10.17 a.m. and resumed in public session at 10.20 a.m.

We are now in public session. Mr. Conway can proceed to read his additional statement.

Mr. Donal Conway

The additional statement is as follows. On 25 April 2017, an internal finance meeting was held by members of the finance team and the then chief executive officer. At the meeting, the cash flow position of the association identified a possible cash flow issue at that time. Acknowledging that the association's revenues operate in a cyclical fashion, this was an unusual situation and was not repeated in 2018. The association's position on 25 April 2017 was that if all cheques issued in the week ending 28 April 2017 were cashed or presented to the bank at the same time, there was a likelihood of insufficient funds being available to cover all of them. This was, however, a short-term issue as there was a legitimate expectation that funds would come to the association in the short term arising from various income streams including ticket sales, sponsorship, grant funding and other sources. The CEO provided the association with a personal cheque for €100,000 and thereby made funds available to provide some immediate financial relief and for the said funds to be used in a context where such additional funding was required by the association. On Wednesday, 26 April 2017, a request was received by email from one particular creditor who was entitled to draw down funds from the association for just such a draw down. The financial director contacted the chief executive officer via email, proposing to lodge the cheque for €100,000 to the association's bank account to honour the draw-down request from the particular creditor. The request was acknowledged by the chief executive officer and payment was made to the particular creditor. The board acknowledged that the circumstances of the above €100,000 transaction were exceptional and the repayment was subsequently made by the association on 16 June 2017 to the then chief executive officer. No contract or agreement was entered into between the association and its then chief executive officer and no interest or charges have been levied or paid by the association in respect of the transaction.

Having been informed of the €100,000 payment, the board acknowledged that disclosure would be made in the necessary financial statements in accordance with the required accounting treatment and the provisions of the Companies Act. The association has since embarked on a review of its internal control processes and procedures to ensure a situation of this nature cannot arise again. Mr. Delaney will also address this issue in his opening statement.

On a point of information, do we have that opening statement?

Mr. John Delaney

If the committee wants a copy, we can circulate it after Mr. Conway finishes.

I want to be fair to everybody. This is a fair and respectful meeting and we treat witnesses fairly and respectfully. The process here is that we receive a copy of statements. I accept that Mr. Delaney is bringing a statement in. We have to have a copy before Mr. Delaney can read it so that we can take on board what he is saying, be fair and observe due process. I am happy to suspend until we get a copy. We should do that, unless Mr. Delaney has copies with him. I want to be clear and I want to do things properly. I do not have a problem if Mr. Conway finishes his statement and we then get a copy of Mr. Delaney's statement. We will suspend then.

Mr. Donal Conway

I understand that copies are being made for the committee at the moment.

When Mr. Conway finishes his statement, the wisest course is to suspend until we digest any statement anyone else has. It is important that we get copies of those so that we can be fair to witnesses in respect of the evidence they give and be fair to members to allow them to assess what is being said. Is that agreed?

Can we establish whether there are any other statements?

Mr. Donal Conway

There are no other statements.

With respect, I ask Mr. Conway to finish his statement following which we will suspend for 20 minutes. Is that agreed?

How long is the statement?

Mr. John Delaney

It will take only two or three minutes.

If it takes us 20 minutes to read, we may as well pack up. We should be able to digest it within five minutes.

I thank Deputy Healy-Rae for his intervention but I am the Chairman here.

I acknowledge that.

We are doing exactly as the committee agreed. We will hear Mr. Conway's statement, suspend for 20 minutes and Mr. Delaney will then read his statement.

Mr. Donal Conway

I was talking about the steps we were taking and will finish the last paragraph on that. The association recognises and shares the desire for these matters to be addressed as soon as possible and with due regard to the different ongoing processes and legal requirements. The FAI is also engaging with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement in dealing with its inquiries.

I turn to governance. The committee will be aware that the FAI has a governance group which has assisted us to make some changes in compliance with the governance code. A number of policies and procedures were approved in 2018, including a code of conduct for board members, a schedule of reserved functions, a volunteering policy and a conflict of interest form. New governance guidelines on term limits for board members will apply from 2021. This year, the association held an EGM at which it voted to limit board members to eight years' service which is in line with the governance code for community, voluntary and charitable organisations. On 7 February 2019, the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Brendan Griffin, said the Government and Sport Ireland were satisfied with the new term limits for FAI board members. We have also copied the committee with the report of Jonathan Hall Associates. The board plans to undertake a root and branch review of the FAI and to strengthen our commitment to reform through the establishment of a new group to review and recommend changes in governance to the association. We have indicated to Sport Ireland that we will seek its input on the composition of the group. I am aware the committee wishes to question us on the adoption of the code and will not pre-empt that. The board has also advised Sport Ireland that recent public comments by the FAI did not accurately reflect the board's level of awareness of the existence of the €100,000 payment to the association in 2017. That matter is being considered by the board's subcommittee, which was established in recent weeks.

I turn to address in order the questions posed by the committee to the board in recent correspondence. The first question was on the process engaged in by the FAI to draw down State funding from Sport Ireland, including the annual certification process. On an annual basis, the FAI submits a programme of action to Sport Ireland outlining our plans within the grassroots, player development, coach education and football services departments. This sets out comprehensive programme plans, the key objectives and targets to be achieved and the expected timeline to achieve them. Our programme of action also includes our annual budget for these programmes along with planned appointments for the year ahead. The FAI also submits an end-of-year update on the previous year's programme of action which sets out the actual targets achieved and the actual income and expenditure for the previous year. We also provide the following documentation, namely, the terms and conditions of grant approval for the year ahead; an anti-doping compliance report; an update on participation figures; an update on FAInet, which is our registered players' database, and an update on our grassroots strategic pillars. These reports are provided to Sport Ireland by the end of January each year. Sport Ireland reviews our submissions and reverts with any queries which are dealt with in a timely manner. The grant draw-down process is made by way of a letter from our financial director or CEO to the CEO of Sport Ireland.

Sport Ireland generally approves our field sport grant during the second quarter but it has the ability to release up to 50% of our annual grant before it formally approves the annual funding. After its internal approval process, it will advance us a further 25%. The final 25% is held until we provide an interim report on activities and budgets, our signed and approved financial statements, and an update on proceedings from our AGM in July or August. Any queries, if applicable, are dealt with and once Sport Ireland is satisfied that the FAI has met all required criteria, the final balance of funding is processed.

The committee's second question was to request the entirety of the terms and conditions of grant approval including the manner in which the Football Association of Ireland ensures compliance with same. I have brought a full copy of the Sport Ireland terms and conditions for grant approval for the committee. I do not propose to read this into the record. I refer to clause 4.3 of the further reporting section of our annual terms and conditions. It requires the association to notify Sport Ireland in writing in the event of any material deterioration in its financial position. We acknowledge that certain circumstances arose in April 2017 which were not reported to Sport Ireland. We will work with Sport Ireland in order to establish a process to ensure the FAI is, in future, fully compliant with clause 4.3. All other clauses within the terms and conditions are met. We have also invited Sport Ireland to satisfy itself on this matter by meeting our colleagues.

The next question was on the process by which the financial statements of the Football Association of Ireland are compiled, including the sign-off mechanism, before production to Sport Ireland in accordance with the financial reporting obligation contained in the terms and conditions of grant approval. The committee also asked for an explanation as to why particular credit facilities afforded to the Football Association of Ireland were not disclosed as part of this financial statement for the relevant year:

The FAI uses Sage 200 financial software to manage its financial transactions. Management accounts are prepared on a monthly basis and are reviewed by the finance director. Actual versus budget reports are sent to all budget owners on a monthly basis for their review and action. Monthly management accounts are presented to the finance committee and to the board. On a quarterly basis, a full financial business review takes place between the CEO, the finance team and the relevant budget owners to discuss financial performance to date and any necessary action required. At the year end, reports are exported from Sage 200 and mapped via Excel into financial statements. A final review with the CEO takes place before the reports are presented to our auditors for independent review. Our audit committee convenes at least twice during the auditing process. Once this audit is completed, the financial statements are presented to the board for its approval and sign-off. The signed financial statements are submitted to Sport Ireland for review as per the terms and conditions of our annual grant. We are currently looking at measures to review processes and to recommend controls to ensure full compliance with company law.

The committee asked for information on any audits carried out by Sport Ireland of the Football Association of Ireland, including the results of any such audit. Sport Ireland audits tend to take place every three years. There is an audit scheduled to take place this year and the last Sport Ireland audit took place in 2016.

The committee also asked for information on the historical context to the drawdown of Sport Ireland funding including the timing of the drawdown, any requests for early drawdown and co-operation between Sport Ireland and the Football Association of Ireland in relation to such requests.

Sport Ireland has always supported the FAI and understands the cyclical nature of our funding. Generally we would, with the agreement of Sport Ireland, draw down 50% of our annual field sports grant by the end of the first quarter, the next 25% would be released once Sport Ireland reviewed our annual January submissions and approved our annual grant internally, and the final instalment would be released once Sport Ireland satisfied itself that we had met all the required criteria. This always takes place after our AGM in July or August each year. Our programmes commence 1 January each year and a significant amount of our Sport Ireland funding contributes towards the cost of development officers and other grassroots administration roles.

The committee asked about the Football Association of Ireland’s progress on the adoption of the code of practice for good governance for voluntary and charitable organisations, noting that the Government’s national sports policy, published in July 2018, tasks Sport Ireland with overseeing a process whereby all national governing bodies and national sports partnerships adopt the code by the end of 2021. A governance committee was established in 2017 to ensure implementation of the code of practice for good governance in community, voluntary and charitable organisations in Ireland and since its establishment has introduced the following: a board induction process, a code of conduct for board members, a conflict of interests form, a schedule of reserved functions for the board, a volunteer policy, and standing orders for board meetings. In addition, term limits of eight years for all new board members have been introduced and three members of the board have been appointed to the FAI’s audit committee. The association intends to be fully compliant with the code by the end of 2021, within the deadline set out in the national sports policy.

The committee asked about communication between the Football Association of Ireland and Sport Ireland, including any statutory requests made by Sport Ireland seeking information from the Football Association of Ireland. Each of our departments liaise with their counterparts in Sport Ireland. We have developed very good working relationships with Sport Ireland and meet with it on a regular basis. It seeks our assistance for various initiatives including organisational training, anti-doping measures, risk registers etc. Statutory requests tend to come through either our legal or business partnerships departments, where they are dealt with as appropriate.

We were also asked whether the presence of State funding is displacing the use of FAI funds in respect of certain programmes, and whether the FAI has the capacity to sustain these programmes without State assistance. State funding is of significant importance to FAI in delivering our grassroots programmes, in keeping with our overall policy of “Football for All”. This, along with other funding sources through local authorities, has facilitated the growth of our nationwide development officer network. We have a network of 57 development officers, with a further four in the process of recruitment. The majority of development officer roles are co-funded. This allows us to grow participation numbers nationally and to develop new participation programmes targeting our entire population. The FAI would not have the capacity to maintain these programmes without the assistance of State funding. Our 2019 programme of action budget shows the apportionment of our Sport Ireland grant relative to the actual cost of running these programmes. The association matches each €1 invested through Sport Ireland funding with an additional €4, as acknowledged by Sport Ireland.

The business of sport is very different from others. The qualification stage process of football is unique. Financial fluctuations are the norm and cash flow is often irregular. The disappointment of the failure of the men’s senior team to qualify for World Cup 2018 had a major impact on match attendance and, subsequently, cash flow. I know the committee wishes to question us about whether the presence of State funding is displacing the use of FAI funds and whether the FAI has the capacity to sustain programmes without State assistance. I will not delay now, as I know members wish to raise queries on these issues, except to say we could not do what we do without State assistance. Similarly, the activities of the FAI help to enable the State to meet some of its policy aims, especially in the areas of health and social inclusion.

I appreciate that Sport Ireland confirmed to the committee last week that its auditors were satisfied that all moneys granted to the FAI were expended in the manner for which they had been provided. I want to make clear how seriously we take the issues that have emerged in recent weeks. The sub-committee of the board has been working every day since its establishment on 26 March to plan a way forward, to ensure transparency, and to promote greater trust in our organisation.

Much work has been done in recent years to create a more financially sustainable organisation. Cash flow management is at the forefront of our financial planning. In time, a process will be put in train to appoint a new CEO, answerable to, but not a member of, the board in line with best governance practices. We will use an outside independent body to assist in this search. One of the main requirements for the next CEO will be to build on important relationships that already exist with Sport Ireland, the Oireachtas, this committee and all our stakeholders.

Members may be aware that our association commissioned Jonathan Hall Associates to engage in a review of senior executive roles. The board had recognised that the workload of the CEO had expanded considerably over recent years and further expansion was likely, having regard to a number of potential strategic international projects under consideration. Over the next three to four years, considerable demands will arise from the hosting of the Euro 2020 fixtures, the bids being assembled on a North-South basis for the 2023 under-21 men’s European Championship finals, and the joint UK-Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup. It was the board’s view that, coupled with the demands of managing a growing organisation, it was neither feasible nor best practice for the responsibility for addressing all these challenges to be placed on a single individual. It was also the board’s view that, in considering how roles might be structured, the association should have regard to models in place in other football associations and the unique influencing power and skills which are vested in the person of the former CEO by reference to his personal position as a member of the UEFA executive committee. It was the Jonathan Hall Associates review which led to the creation of the position of executive vice-president.

Turning to the good work of the football family, while I acknowledge that members will be interested in questioning us about matters that have featured in the media in recent weeks, it is my duty to put on record the recent achievements of the Irish football family at every level. These should not be lost in the heat of controversy. I am sure that if I did not refer to these achievements, I would be criticised in many quarters, especially the football family. Our national men’s team, led by Mick McCarthy, has won its two opening matches in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA European Championship and sits on top of group D with six points. As many members will be aware, Dublin will host four games at the Euro 2020 finals, with huge financial benefit for the economy. If Ireland qualifies, we will be guaranteed two home games at the tournament.

Our national women’s team, managed by Colin Bell, will begin its UEFA 2021 European Championship qualifying campaign against Montenegro in September, while our under-21 men’s team, in Stephen Kenny's first match in charge, beat Luxembourg 3-0 on 24 March. Tom Mohan’s squad recently qualified for this summer’s UEFA under-19 finals, as winners of its elite qualifying group. Unlike other tournament finals, only eight of the 55 nations qualify for the under-19 tournament finals. Next month, we will host the UEFA under-17 European Championship, with games to be played in counties Dublin, Wicklow, Waterford and Longford, where Colin O’Brien’s team will carry Irish hopes. Our under-19 and under-17 women’s teams have recently enjoyed victories over Serbia and Scotland, respectively, in their European Championship qualifiers. Domestically, attendances have risen by more than 11% in the SSE Airtricity League of Ireland, with average increases of 13.5% and 42.9% in the premier division and first division, respectively. At SSE Airtricity national league level, under-13 football was launched recently, which will complement the under-19, under-17, under-15 and under-13 levels and constitute part of our work with our high-performance director to design our new elite player pathway. At grassroots level, the latest Irish Sports Monitor report by Sport Ireland confirms football as the sport with the greatest level of participation in the country. Our recent implementation of the online FAInet process has registered 213,000 players in more than 86 leagues. We continue to deliver our FAI strategic plan for 2016 to 2020 and we are in the fourth annual operations plan linked with the strategy, with positive outcomes in 2018 in respect of the targets set. We are well on target towards full implementation by 2020.

The FAI also continues what I would describe as invaluable work in the following areas. Our player development plan, under the auspices of high-performance director Ruud Dokter, is in its fourth year, with an emphasis on a player focused model, creating better players for the future. Our emerging talent programme helps identify and develop talented young players from under-11 upwards throughout the country, with a view to helping them progress on to the international stage. The regional emerging talent network has ten centres nationwide and ancillary centres in Dublin, with 1,200 players between boys and girls at three separate age groups. In partnership with education and training boards, ETBs, nationwide, the FAI operates 11 local training initiatives that provide a unique blend of educational and football development for talented young footballers, both male and female. The FAI-ETB player development programme enables participants to train full time while availing of a sport-themed education course, accredited at Quality and Qualifications Ireland level 5, which enables young players to achieve their academic and sporting potential. Nine of our SSE Airtricity League of Ireland clubs have links with third level institutions. The aim of our football for all programme is the delivery of football opportunities to people who may not ordinarily get a chance to play the beautiful game. The programme comprises players from all groups and sporting bodies that cater for people with a disability who want to play football, and approximately 3,800 players participate.

Furthermore, our football programme for the homeless and our late-night leagues, many of them in disadvantaged areas, continue to grow. We launched the under-17 women’s national league, with 11 clubs participating. This is a further vital step to develop women’s football at underage level. Last year, we launched the glow football programme, which has the aim of encouraging young girls to become involved in football through a fun concept of playing indoor football to music in the dark under ultraviolet light. Our FAI Aviva soccer sisters programme, now in its 13th year, will see girls between the ages of six and 14 attending football camps during the Easter holiday, bookings for which are already at record levels. More than 42% of the 37,200 children taking part in this year's Spar primary school 5s programme are female, while 1,693 schools were involved. More than 20,000 children from 1,038 schools took part in the 2018 primary and post-primary schools futsal programme, while more than 35,000 children participated in our Sports Direct summer soccer schools in a record 400 camps. There were 2,245 participants in our school-club link programmes in 2018. The FAI won the diversity and inclusion award at the 2018 Irish Sport Industry Awards organised by the Federation of Irish Sport. In 2018, we rolled out the integration through football project and the sports welcomes refugees programme, both supported by the Department of Justice and Equality and the European Commission. Four new development officers began work with the FAI during 2018 in Kilkenny and Dublin. Two of the roles are solely dedicated to women’s football, while one is for inclusion programmes.

These achievements and programmes can happen thanks only to the hard work and dedication of the players, the fans and our staff, and I pay credit to them all today. I also apologise to them for the FAI currently being the subject of controversy and I hope a stronger and better association will emerge from our present difficulties. This work could not take place without the vital funding we receive from the State.

I want to repeat how grateful the FAI is to receive these moneys via Sport Ireland. They go towards programmes such as those I mentioned.

We appreciate also that receipt of State funding brings with it a heightened level of public and political scrutiny. That is as it should be. Nevertheless, the point should be made at this stage that FAI activities are primarily funded via UEFA and FIFA and through commercial and philanthropic sources, not to mention the various fundraising activities at local level in communities the length and breadth of Ireland. This is not a one-way street, by which I mean football in Ireland, and our work in the FAI, brings with it not just huge social, health and community benefits, it also brings an economic benefit to the country and its economy. Sport Ireland noted last week that for every euro it gives the FAI, the association spends four more. This facilitates participation at grassroots level and enables us to reach out to all across the country who wish to play football and experience some of the excellent personal, health, community and societal benefits involved.

Despite our success on the pitch, and in communities around Ireland, the past few weeks have undoubtedly been a difficult time for Irish football and the FAI. We are determined as a board, and I am determined as president, that our sole focus shall once again be to promote football in this country. I hope the processes that we are putting in place in the short term, and the long-term processes around governance and reform, will help to restore the committee's faith in the FAI.

Before we break, can I get a copy of Mr. Delaney's intended statement? I just want to get clarity from Mr. Conway regarding the additional statement that he introduced during the course of his address. Maybe I did not hear Mr. Conway correctly but I think he may have said the provenance of this is Grant Thornton.

Mr. Donal Conway

Verified by Grant Thornton, yes.

Verified. Is the full report available to us?

Mr. Donal Conway

Not at this stage.

Why not? I am not being rude.

Mr. Donal Conway

I understand.

We will be fair to everybody. I want to be clear, for the sake of the members and the FAI representatives, that when someone introduces evidence like that, it is important, to back up what is being said, that the full report be made available. If we do not have it, we do not know what other matters might be in it.

I note, with respect, the funding the FAI gets from UEFA and FIFA. Mr. Conway might confirm when we resume that Sport Ireland and the taxpayer have given FAI over €52 million in the past ten years. That should be acknowledged by him as well.

Mr. Donal Conway

The money that we have received, I understand.

I want to be fair to the FAI and to the taxpayer. If the committee agrees that Mr. Delaney's statement will be circulated, we will suspend for 20 minutes. The meeting is now suspended.

Sitting suspended at 10.54 a.m. and resumed at 11.15 a.m.

We are now back in public session. In view of the fact that this is the first sight we have had of the FAI statement, we need time to get advice on it. In that context, I propose that we meet in private session for a maximum of 15 minutes. Everybody except committee members will have to leave the room and then at 11.30 a.m. Mr. Delaney can proceed to deliver his statement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The joint committee went into private session at 11. 15 a.m. and resumed in public session at 11.32 a.m.

Before I invite Mr. Delaney to read his statement, I wish to express the concerns of the committee to the FAI. The committee is concerned that it only received two separate addresses this morning. In the normal course, we should have received these statements by 12 noon on 8 April. We have just received them and the committee members are unhappy about this. I am expressing their collective concern at that.

Given that we have had a number of breaks this morning, I propose, with the consent of the witnesses, that we continue until 1.45 p.m. without a break. We have had three suspensions already. I hope the witnesses can agree to that proposal. We would like to get their consent. We have stopped these proceedings three times already. In fairness, the witnesses delivered the statements late-----

Mr. Donal Conway

We are happy to facilitate that.

I thank Mr. Conway. We will continue in public session until 1.45 p.m. If anyone needs a break during that time, please indicate that by way of a note to the clerk to the committee. We will facilitate breaks if they are needed.

Mr. Donal Conway

The Chairman raised a number of issues before the last break.

Yes, I referred to Grant Thornton.

Mr. Donal Conway

Does the Chairman want me to speak to those issues now or would he prefer to wait until later?

Mr. Conway can speak to those issues now to inform committee members.

Mr. Donal Conway

The Grant Thornton exercise is a support to the board and the finance department. The Grant Thornton exercise is to assist our internal review, to make it more robust and to bring in outside expertise. The Mazars exercise is fully independent. We enlisted the support of Grant Thornton to examine the association's books, records and ledgers. We envisage Grant Thornton conducting an investigation while also providing support to our own staff. Its involvement represents an extra resource for our own staff. It is very important to stress, from a board perspective, that at no stage were we trying to delay answering the committee's questions.

The additional page provided to the committee today was only completed yesterday by Grant Thornton.

For clarity, Grant Thornton's name is not mentioned in this document. That is the point I was making to Mr. Conway. I thought he said that it was a Grant Thornton report but this is a statement from Mr. Conway-----

Mr. Donal Conway

This is not the report. There was some urgency in the face of disappointment on the part of Sport Ireland that we had not addressed the question of the €100,000 loan. I asked Grant Thornton to concentrate on that first but it will go on to look at other matters and come back to us with recommendations. We expect it to say that in order to meet top standards, the following processes should be put in place and so on.

This additional document on which Mr. Conway addressed us this morning is not from Grant Thornton per se. Is that correct? I ask Mr. Conway to clarify that.

Mr. Donal Conway

The page I gave the committee today was compiled with Grant Thornton.

Grant Thornton has not signed it and its name does not appear anywhere in the document. I am seeking clarity here. I want to be absolutely clear. It reads, "Additional statement from Mr. Donal Conway, President of the FAI". I am just talking about facts. I am not being accusatory. I am just being factual. Mr. Conway mentioned Grant Thornton in his introduction but this is not from Grant Thornton-----

Mr. Donal Conway

It signed off on this page. Grant Thornton signed off on this.

Can we see that signing off? I think members would like to see that.

Mr. Donal Conway

I felt there was an urgency in terms of getting a response on the €100,000 loan.

Sure, and I have made my point.

Mr. Donal Conway

To finish on this, I do not want to give the Chairman and this committee an answer now that will differ from what they hear in a week's time or a month's time. Part of why we took our time and were very careful was to be able to say something that we can stand over.

The committee is clear on what I have said and on Mr. Conway's response.

Will the full report be made available to the committee?

That is what we have asked for-----

Mr. Donal Conway

The report is an internal report. On advice, we have brought Grant Thornton into the FAI and it is working with us. What Grant Thornton is doing is for the FAI-----

The FAI is not going to make that report available to members. Is that what Mr. Conway is saying?

Mr. Donal Conway

As of now, that is internal and available, when complete, to the FAI. That is where we are, as of now, on that.

We cannot take this as a Grant Thornton report. It is not signed off by Grant Thornton.

No, it is not. Its name does not appear anywhere on it.

Through the Chairman-----

I will let the Vice Chairman, Deputy O'Keeffe, come in now. I am not stopping anyone from making a contribution. I just want to make sure that the process is fair to everybody and that we are clear on what Mr. Conway is saying and what this committee is saying.

Mr. Donal Conway

I did not refer to Grant Thornton's report. I said Grant Thornton assisted in compiling that.

I was going to ask if the president, through his staff, could ask Grant Thornton to supply a signed copy of that document. The FAI asked Grant Thornton to fast-track its examination of the €100,000 loan ahead of a lot of other issues. If Grant Thornton has come back to the FAI on the €100,000 issue, could we have that page of its report?

Senator O'Mahony is next, followed by Deputy Coppinger.

Mr. Conway is saying that the internal report is for the FAI only. It will not be published or made available to anybody at any stage. It will be for no eyes other than the eyes of the FAI board. Is that correct?

Mr. Donal Conway


I suggest that we move on to the statement and then we can ask our questions. Time is getting on here and-----

I want to be clear. We agreed that I would ask these questions at the recommencement. I just want to get it right. Nobody is being stopped by me from asking any questions at any time.

I just want to make sure the process is clear, what the witnesses are saying is clear and what we are saying is also clear.

I want to clarify one further point before Mr. Delaney reads his statement. I believe that he names people by the office held. Will he please name the officeholders when he mentions them by title just so the committee knows to whom he is referring? If it is in order Mr. Delaney can read his statement now.

Mr. John Delaney

Does Mr. Conway want to deal with the €52 million?

Mr. Donal Conway

No. I will come back to that.

Mr. John Delaney

I thank the Chairman, Deputies and Senators. I want to address the committee on the issue of €100,000 I gave to the Football Association of Ireland, FAI, in April 2017, which was repaid to me in June 2017.

First of all I want to say how truly saddened I am that Sport Ireland, which provided annual State funding of €2.9 million to the Football Association of Ireland, has announced that it has temporarily withdrawn the funding to the association pending reports from the FAI, Grant Thornton and Mazars.

I wish to make it clear that I have urged a speedy response to the queries received from Sport Ireland, and this week I have already met with Grant Thornton and with the FAI on these issues. I will respond to any request to a meeting as soon as I hear from Mazars.

On Tuesday, 25 April 2017 we had an internal finance meeting at the FAI. This meeting was attended by our director of finance, Mr. Eamon Breen, our financial controller Ms Yvonne Tsang, and me as the CEO. At this meeting I was advised that if all cheques and FAI bank transfers issued to third parties at that time were presented for payment that the FAI would exceed its overdraft limit of €1.5 million on its bank accounts, which were held with Bank of Ireland. I expressed concern and surprise at the meeting as to how the FAI could have arrived at this position. I recall thinking at the time that if I had been approached even a few days earlier I may have been able to better address the issue. I asked if any funds were due to the FAI that could resolve the matter and I was informed that there was nothing due imminently that could be confirmed at that stage.

As the matter was pressing and we only had a few hours to resolve the potential issues that would arise if the bank overdraft limit was exceeded, as a precautionary measure and to assist the FAI I wrote a cheque for €100,000 from my personal account to the FAI. This cheque was made payable to the FAI and I gave it to our director of finance, Eamon Breen, telling him to only lodge the cheque if it became clear that the bank overdraft was going to be exceeded.

Later that afternoon I travelled to London and the next day I travelled on to Geneva, Switzerland, where I was attending UEFA business on behalf of the FAI. I recall phoning our honorary secretary, Mr. Michael Cody, informing him that I had made a precautionary payment to the FAI by way of a personal cheque for €100,000 to assist in the event that the bank overdraft was going to be exceeded. I informed him that I was very concerned and that I had to act quickly to assist the Football Association of Ireland. I recall also informing the then president Mr. Tony Fitzgerald who was chairman of the board at the time.

The following day while I was in Geneva I received a call from our director of finance, Eamon Breen, informing me that there was a requirement to lodge the cheque for €100,000 and he subsequently confirmed that request to me by email. I agreed that the cheque should be lodged. I asked the director of finance when I would be paid back and he said it would be as soon as the funds came in.

I subsequently received a cheque for €100,000 on 16 June 2017 from the Football Association of Ireland, repaying the amount in full and which I lodged to my personal account on 23 June 2017. I did not receive any interest payment and I would never have expected it. I was only acting to assist the FAI and for the benefit of Irish football.

I recall asking the director of finance, Eamon Breen, if the FAI had any reporting or disclosure obligations arising out of the €100,000 payment. There was a board meeting on Monday, 19 June 2017, and the €100,000 payment did not arise.

On Monday, 4 March 2019, I informed the board of the FAI of the precautionary payment I had made, following a media query received from The Sunday Times. On Saturday, 16 March 2019, I initiated court proceedings against The Sunday Times at my own cost in relation to this matter because I believed at the time that this information had emanated from documentation that had been filed in the family courts. I accept that the overdraft limit issue arose on my watch as the chief executive officer. I wish that it had not happened but I acted in the best interests of the association.

We have an excellent and committed finance and administration team and body of employees at the FAI, and many voluntary workers and players at all levels throughout the country. I regret the embarrassment this entire issue has caused to them and the association but I did it in the best interests of football.

I will continue to assist fully the Football Association of Ireland in its engagements with Sport Ireland and Grant Thornton. When called upon to do so I will do likewise with Mazars and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement in their respective inquiries.

On legal advice I am precluded from making any further comments at this hearing in relation to the finances of the association or my former role as CEO, or on the €100,000 payment, either directly or indirectly. In the interests of fair procedures and natural justice I have made this statement to the committee and attended this meeting voluntarily, as I have attended many Oireachtas committees in the past. I am not in a position to answer any such questions here at this time. Given that some members of this committee have made highly prejudicial public pronouncements about me personally prior to my attendance here today, and in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Kerins case, I ask that the committee respects this position.

I am happy to answer any other questions in relation to my current role as executive vice president responsible for UEFA and FIFA matters. As most members will know I am passionate about football and always have been. In my role as executive vice-president I look forward to welcoming the European under-17 boys championships to Ireland next month. This will see 16 teams play and provide at least 9,000 bed spaces for tourism for the country. Next year Dublin is one of 12 European cities to host the Euro 2020. This will see four matches played at the Aviva Stadium, hopefully including the Republic of Ireland team. We are currently bidding for the 2023 under-21 men's tournament with the Irish Football Association. This is a very significant project and demonstrates how the round ball can unify both associations on this island.

I would also like to see a Women's Champions League final being played in Dublin at the Aviva Stadium, perhaps to mark the 50th anniversary of the Women's Football Association in Ireland in 2023.

I, as an executive committee member of UEFA, along with my counterparts in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England, am currently working on a feasibility study that we hope will result in the 2030 FIFA World Cup being hosted across these islands.

From a financial perspective UEFA would provide the FAI with somewhere between €15 million to €20 million annually depending on participation in major tournaments. It is a significant funder of the Football Association of Ireland.

What was the taxpayer figure I had asked for earlier?

Mr. Donal Conway

Just before we broke the Chairman spoke about €52 million in State funding - if that was the phrase - and the Chairman may have said FIFA-----

No. I was talking about Sport Ireland.

Mr. Donal Conway

I understand that.

The FAI has received €52 million from there, as a matter of fact.

Mr. Donal Conway

Can I just clarify something on those figures if possible?

Of course, yes.

Mr. Donal Conway

Over the 20 year span from 1999 to 2019 it is €52.9 million.

It is very significant State funding and it is key to the delivery of our projects.

I did not catch the name of the financial controller, the third person at the meeting.

Mr. Donal Conway

It was Yvonne Tsang.

We have agreed a rota of members to call on. The time limit is ten minutes but it will be questions and not speeches. After nine minutes, I will advise the speaker. When ten minutes are up, I will move on to the next person. If people wish to share time, I ask them to let me know at the outset so that I can advise them when four minutes are up. Deputy Catherine Murphy is going first because she is the member of the committee who raised this issue with us, going back to December before any of the these controversies arose. I acknowledge her pursuit of many matters but particularly this issue. She will be followed by Deputies Rock, Troy, Munster and Coppinger, Senator O'Mahony, Deputy O'Keeffe and Senators Ó Céidigh and Feighan. Non-members will be after that. Senator Mark Daly will speak when Senator Feighan has concluded.

I will try to keep my questions short and I would appreciate succinct answers. Mr. Delaney stated that he recalled asking the director of finance if the FAI had reporting or disclosure obligations arising out of the €100,000 payment. Can he recall the response to the question?

Mr. John Delaney

I made it clear in my statement that I cannot add any further to it at this stage given the various investigations that are taking place.

In his statement of yesterday, or the day before, Mr. Conway indicated that he was advised that recent comments by the FAI did not accurately reflect the board's level of awareness of the existence of the €100,000 in 2017. From what we are hearing today, the board, in its totality, did not appear to have been informed of the €100,000. Was when it arose in the newspaper the first time they all knew about it?

Mr. Donal Conway

At the time of the transaction, three members of the board were aware of it. The remainder were familiar with the transaction from a board meeting of 4 March 2019.

There was a very serious issue with finances. Page 9 of Mr. Conway's statement refers to monthly reporting but this did not feature at board level. One would normally expect something like this to be minuted and that those minutes would be given to the auditors at the end of the year. That did not happen, however.

Mr. Donal Conway

We get financial reporting at every monthly board meeting.

The specific €100,000 did not feature.

Mr. Donal Conway

The €100,000 was not discussed at the board.

From the point of view of governance, the board was in a precarious situation and had exceeded its overdraft-----

Mr. Donal Conway


It had potentially exceeded its overdraft and had to take extraordinary measures but the extraordinary measure it took put the board in trouble with Sport Ireland because of the obligation to let Sport Ireland know that its finances had significantly deteriorated. This payment was not thought to be something the board should know but who would normally give the board that kind of information? I acknowledge that there is nothing normal about the situation.

Mr. Donal Conway

At every board meeting, one of the items on the agenda would be the finance report. The chief financial officer, the financial controller and the honorary treasurer would bring the finance report to the board and there would be a discussion and exchanges in respect of it.

Why did it not happen on this occasion, when the board was likely to exceed its overdraft and had to take an extraordinary or unusual measure?

Mr. Donal Conway

As I referenced in my statement, our finances can be quite cyclical.

I understand that.

Mr. Donal Conway

We have some very reliable streams of funding but a lot of funding attaches to the performance of the senior men's international team. Funding in a sport organisation can be cyclical and there are points in the financial year where we might have considerable cash balances while at other points-----

I completely understand that and I understand that this is not a business in the normal sense of the word. We do not need to go into great detail on that point. This is the way a particular situation was conducted at board level. The board has the legal responsibility for this but it did not have sight of a significant loan, which had been made to cover it if it exceeded its overdraft limits. Why would the board be kept in the dark about this?

Mr. Donal Conway

This is the only occasion when this kind of a transaction actually occurred. The matter was dealt with at the level of the finance department and the CEO.

Does Mr. Conway have confidence in those people, given how it was handled?

Mr. Donal Conway

Our subgroup has brought in external advisers, extra resources and assistance to ensure that we put all the necessary processes in place going forward.

That is in the future. Does Mr. Conway have confidence in how this was handled? In hindsight, is he confident that this was the right way to handle this?

Mr. Donal Conway

This was a short-term cashflow difficulty. How it was managed was not something we would do on a regular basis and is not the way I would see us reacting on a regular basis.

The board does not really have responsibility, if something can be kept from its sight in this way.

Mr. Donal Conway

The board does have responsibility for financial oversight.

It has the legal responsibility.

Mr. Donal Conway

Yes. The board gets regular financial reporting. A short-term difficulty arose and it was managed in a way-----

It was managed out of sight of the board.

Mr. Donal Conway

It was managed in the way it was managed and it is not something we would like to see-----

How could Sport Ireland have confidence in the way the public money was spent? There were terms and conditions associated with funding and that is why Sport Ireland has suspended payment of funds. I regret that as well and I regret the fact that we are discussing this matter.

That was a breach of the terms and conditions in respect of the receipt of public money. The board did not even have sight of it. I am absolutely astonished that the FAI conducted its business in this way. The people who knew about it were the finance director, the honorary secretary, the former president, the chief executive, and the financial controller. The rest of the board was not apprised of this matter. It was not reported to the auditors because it was not minuted. If it is not minuted, it does not get picked up by the auditors in the end of year accounts. I will come back with other questions later but Mr. Delaney has said that he individually took the injunction. Was the board aware that was happening?

Mr. Donal Conway

We were informed about what Mr. Delaney was doing by way of a conference call at the time of the injunction.

Did the board know about the financial issue at that point?

Mr. Donal Conway

We had a conference call about the issue.

Did the conference call go into the detail of the €100,000?

Mr. Donal Conway

That came up at our board meeting. As he said in his statement, Mr. Delaney brought the matter to the board meeting.

Was that meeting after the call?

Mr. Donal Conway

The board meeting was on 4 March.

On what date was the board told about the injunction?

Mr. Donal Conway

We were told about the injunction on 16 or 17 March.

I am sharing my time with Senator O'Mahony. To pick up from where Deputy Catherine Murphy left off, the board meeting was the conference call. Do I understand correctly?

Mr. Donal Conway

No, the meeting on 4 March was a regular board meeting.

When was the conference call?

Mr. Donal Conway

It was on 16 March.

I just wanted to clarify that. I welcome Mr. Conway. The unnamed creditor mentioned in his statement, the production of which was - we will say "assisted" - by Grant Thornton, was Dundalk Football Club. Is that right?

Mr. Donal Conway

That is an internal matter for the FAI. I will not go into that.

It is not appropriate for us to get into that particular area right now.

That is no problem at all. Without naming the creditor, had it made any requests for funding prior to 25 April?

Mr. Donal Conway

We had an ongoing dialogue with that creditor but, with respect, that is an internal matter for the FAI.

I understand that. To give a bit of context, what I am trying to move towards in my line of questioning is the claim in Mr. Delaney's statement that the cashflow issues came to light on 25 April. It seems that if requests were deferred or delayed before that date, there may have been pre-existing cashflow issues. Would that not be the case?

Mr. Donal Conway

As I said to the previous Deputy, we have to be very careful about how we manage cashflow at certain times of the year, while at other times of the year, when certain revenue streams come through, we are in a much more comfortable position in that regard.

I can understand how that would come to be given the lumpy nature of the associations ingoings as opposed to the steady nature of its outgoings. It is perfectly rational. Given that, at the time, the FAI may not have been able to honour all cheques issued, is Mr. Conway of the view that the FAI was close to being insolvent under company law?

Mr. Donal Conway

I do not accept that view. I draw the Deputy's attention to our annual accounts. We have had nine consecutive years of profit. As I have said, cashflow can be a challenge to manage because of the timing of revenue or income streams. That makes it difficult but it does not lead to a situation in which one would conclude that the business is insolvent or is not a going concern.

Let us bring it back to the core of our remit, which is taxpayer funding. Had the advance drawdown of State funding prevented similar situations arising in the past? Had the FAI reached similar precipices in the past which were prevented from having an effect by the advance drawdowns which Sport Ireland told us last week happened five years in a row?

Mr. Donal Conway

In my statement I said that the programmes which were approved and signed off on between ourselves and Sport Ireland commenced in January every year. The purpose of an early drawdown is simply to secure and maintain those programmes.

Was the auditor, Deloitte, made aware of this loan at the time?

Mr. Donal Conway

As the Deputy will know from my statement, it was not.

The people who were aware were those in the finance department, the honorary secretary, the former president, the financial controller and the CEO. Is that correct?

Mr. Donal Conway

That is correct.

There was no legal advice consulted at the time.

Mr. Donal Conway


The legal officer at that time was not aware.

Ms Rea Walshe

I was the legal officer at the time. It was mentioned in passing and I reported it directly to the financial director.

That was an omission from the previous statement. Legal advice was sought. That concludes my questions. I will pass over to my colleague.

I thank the witnesses for their presentations. Obviously Sport Ireland has said that the FAI breached the rules in regard to disclosure. The association has admitted that in its opening statement. I will therefore move to the circumstances of the loan. Mr. Conway said that three members of the board knew about the loan of €100,000. Is that correct?

Mr. Donal Conway

That is correct.

Who were those three members?

Mr. Donal Conway

They were the former CEO, who was a member of the board at that stage, the president, and the honorary secretary.

Who was the president at that time?

Mr. Donal Conway

Tony Fitzgerald.

The other member who knew was the honorary secretary.

Mr. Donal Conway


In other words, the whole board did not know about the loan and, as a board, it did not request the €100,000 nor did it authorise the loan. Am I right in saying that?

Mr. Donal Conway

The Senator is correct.

Who decided not to inform Sport Ireland of the issue of the €100,000 loan?

Mr. Donal Conway

As the Senator has said, awareness of the loan was confined to a certain number of people. Clause 4.3 of the terms and conditions says that a material deterioration in the finances of the organisation warrants a signal to Sport Ireland. I am sure the individuals in charge at the time did not-----

I am asking who made the decision. In Mr. Delaney's statement he says that he asked whether there was a responsibility on anyone to inform Sport Ireland. Who made the decision not to inform Sport Ireland of this issue?

Mr. Donal Conway

I do not think there was a deliberate decision; it was an omission on our part.

Somebody made a call and decided the association did not need to tell Sport Ireland. I will move on from that issue.

Mr. Donal Conway

That may not be the record.

When was the Jonathan Hall report commissioned?

Mr. Donal Conway

It was commissioned in early March.

What were its terms of reference?

Mr. Donal Conway

It was to be a review of the senior executive structure of the FAI. We had been talking about-----

There were no specific terms of reference.

Mr. Donal Conway

The scope was laid out. Does the Senator have a copy of the report?

Mr. Donal Conway

Does the Senator want me to read the scope of the project?

Is it in the report? Mr. Conway can read it if he wants. Is there much in it?

Mr. Donal Conway


Okay. Please read it.

Mr. Donal Conway

I will read the bullet points for the scope of the review. It was to review the current role and responsibilities of the FAI chief executive. It was to interview, on a confidential basis, senior people within the FAI structure, both board and executive, to get their views on that issue. It was to produce a written report setting out recommendations on the way forward for the FAI. It was also to attend such other meetings and make such telephone calls as required to gather relevant information, views and background to the issue in order to complete the report.

I thank Mr. Conway but I want to move to the next question. When was that report received by the board?

Mr. Donal Conway

It was received in late March.

How long after receiving it did the board make an appointment of executive vice president?

Mr. Donal Conway

It was very quickly after adopting the report.

Was it a matter of days?

Mr. Donal Conway

It was days.

I understand that decision was unanimous.

Mr. Donal Conway


Did anybody on the board suggest at any stage the position should be advertised?

Mr. Donal Conway

I do not want to rehash the whole Jonathan Hall report for the committee. We felt that the structure which existed before the recent appointments was not serving the association to best effect. We had a number of what we might term international projects in play. I will not repeat what they are because they were mentioned earlier. These international projects were in play and we still have considerable demands in running the domestic game. We looked at what happens in other countries. Many other UEFA member associations have a chief executive officer and a general secretary, or a paid president or vice president, in addition to the chief executive officer.

Are there minutes of the meeting at which the appointment was made?

Mr. Donal Conway


Are they available?

Mr. Donal Conway

They are private to the board and the company.

They are not available. There is usually a severance package when somebody steps down from a position. Was one involved in this case?

Mr. Donal Conway

There is no severance package.

I welcome the witnesses.

The Senators are leaving because there is a vote.

I welcome the witnesses here today. It is widely acknowledged that Mr. Delaney has been very accessible on all matters, whether local or national, and that he has frequently engaged with public representatives. The purpose of today, however, is to deal adequately with outstanding governance issues. I am aware that our guests are here on a voluntary basis but this is about corporate governance matters. It is about restoring public confidence in the FAI and seeking answers for patrons of an organisation that each of our guests claims to love.

I accept that the running of a huge organisation with an annual turnover in excess of €50 million is complex from a domestic and international perspective. Would the board members or Mr. Delaney, in his former role as chief executive officer, accept the same governance issues and challenges that obtained in the FAI in 2017 from a League of Ireland club?

Mr. Donal Conway

We have spoken-----

It is a "Yes" or "No" answer.

Mr. Donal Conway

We have spoken to the issue that occurred in 2017 and, in terms of what we have to learn from it, we have-----

Would Mr. Conway accept-----

Mr. Donal Conway

-----declared our commitment-----

Would Mr. Conway accept-----

Mr. Donal Conway

We have declared our commitment to do that.

Would Mr. Conway accept the same governance issues from a League of Ireland club? I understand that, each year, every League of Ireland club has to apply for a licence in order to participate. Would Mr. Conway accept the same accounting practices that the FAI board and executive applied at the time from a League of Ireland club? He can answer "Yes" or "No".

Mr. Donal Conway

We expect League of Ireland clubs to comply with commitments in their participation agreement and licensing arrangements. That is what we expect.

Why is it acceptable, in certain elements of the organisation, that loans and funding are available? Is it the case that some elements of the FAI organisation are more equal than others?

Mr. Donal Conway

No. Without being smart, I am not quite sure what that means. If the Deputy means-----

I will give Mr. Conway an example.

Mr. Donal Conway

-----women's football, men's football, underage or adult, they all stand equal.

I will give an example and perhaps Mr. Delaney might to answer this as the person who made the funding available and no one questions his passion for soccer. Last year, Bray Wanderers, an historical cub, nearly went to its knees. Why was there not a need to help it?

Mr. Donal Conway

When Bray Wanderers presented-----

That question was to Mr. Delaney.

Mr. Donal Conway

Can I take the question, please? When Bray Wanderers-----

I would actually-----

In fairness, Mr. Delaney is not open to other questions so he should answer this question.

Mr. Donal Conway

Mr. Delaney said he is unable to answer questions which relate to his former role as chief executive officer and that question comes into that category. In his statement he said that he did not wish to take such questions.

Did he? I am sorry, excuse me, I will clarify that. I accept that and offer my apologies. Mr. Delaney is happy to answer questions which relate to his present role. He does not have to answer that question.

Can I ask a question that has previously been asked? To what exact bill did the €100,000 relate? Mr. Delaney's opening statement referred to "all cheques and FAI bank transfers" which would indicate a multiple liability.

In response to Deputy Rock, Mr. Conway said he had previously been in negotiations with the creditor. Are we talking about one specific creditor or multiple creditors? Why can our guests not assist the committee today by identifying who would have been left with a payment default if the €100,000 had not been lent?

Mr. Donal Conway

It is not, in any sense, an attitude of not assisting the committee but the relationship between creditors and the association are internal and potentially commercially sensitive. I cannot talk about any individual creditor and its relationship with the FAI.

The FAI released a statement which stated that:

The bridging loan was made in the best interests of the FAI ... when it experienced a short-term cash flow issue. The board of the FAI [of which Mr. Conway is the chair] has been kept fully informed in relation to this matter at all times.

Who issued that statement? It is clearly inaccurate.

Mr. Donal Conway

The statement issued through our communications department as a press release.

Who signed off on that statement?

Mr. Donal Conway

The communications department got direction at that stage. It was not issued from the board, it was issued internally.

Who signed off on it? I issue press releases every day, as a politician, as most of us do. Who signed off on a press release that said the board of the FAI "has been kept fully informed in relation to this matter at all times"? Was it Mr. Conway, as chairman of the board and president of the organisation?

Mr. Donal Conway

I did not sign off on that statement.

Mr. Donal Conway

I would have to see the statement. Does it refer to the High Court injunction? What specific issue does it refer to prior to that last sentence?

The statement was in response to the reports in The Sunday Times.

Mr. Donal Conway

Bear with me, please. What is the date of the statement, please?

I do not have the date to hand.

Was it 20 March?

It is 20 March. Mr. Conway is confirming that as chairman of the board and as president he did not sign off on it.

Mr. Donal Conway

I am confirming that it did not cross my desk.

Something came out from the board which alluded to the board being kept informed at all times, yet the board's most senior member was unaware of it. That is strange.

I refer to Mr. Delaney's statement. I accept that he is not in a position to comment any further but maybe Mr. Conway can. Of the people identified who can corroborate the sequence of events, none, with the exception of Mr. Delaney, is here today. One other person who could have corroborated who is still a board member is Mr. Cody. In light of the fact that he could corroborate the story, would it not have been appropriate to bring him to the meeting?

Mr. Donal Conway

We brought the people as requested by the committee.

There was a list. He was not actually invited.

Mr. Donal Conway

There was a list, he was not listed. Had he been listed we would have brought him. We brought the people listed.

Then there would be no problem bringing him here on a future date.

Mr. Donal Conway

We come on a voluntary basis so -----

To be fair he was not listed.

I am just asking -----

I am not trying to cut across the Deputy but he has one minute left before Deputy Munster.

I refer to the Hall report, which is one of three reviews; it is complete, while the other two are ongoing. On what exact date did the Hall consultation on operations begin?

Mr. Donal Conway

The association spoke to him in February. The plan was that each member of the board and senior executives would be interviewed to get their input.

It started in February.

Mr. Donal Conway

The initial conversations started with Jonathan Hall Associates in February.

Did the FAI seek expressions of interest? Was the review put out to tender or how was this entity chosen to conduct the review?

Mr. Donal Conway

Jonathan Hall himself had worked for the Football Association around governance and this was a governance review. He had done considerable work for the FA and had worked for -----

It was not put out to tender.

Mr. Donal Conway


Who made the decision to employ Jonathan Hall?

Mr. Donal Conway

The board.

The full board.

Mr. Donal Conway

The board. The full board.

Only two specific dates seem to be mentioned in the Jonathan Hall report. It said the board meeting should make a decision on 22 March and that it should announced its decision on 23 March. Does Mr. Conway think that it was Mr. Hall's place to tell the board when to make its decision and its announcement?

Mr. Donal Conway

The board made the decision itself without a recommendation from anyone else. It considered the report. Recommendation 10 of the report contained a timeline, if that is what the Deputy is referring to.

It seems coincidence that it was announced on a Saturday evening during celebrations for a much welcomed international win.

Finally, a previous speaker confirmed that no severance package exists. Is a pension in place?

Mr. Donal Conway

That is a matter of the former CEO's contract.

I must say here that Mr. Conway does not have to answer that.

Mr. John Delaney

Chairman, may I request a comfort break?

Of course, yes, by all means. Does Mr. Delaney suggest that we all adjourn?

Mr. John Delaney

No, just me, or if anyone else wishes to.

Of course. I call Deputy Munster.

I have before me a copy of the overall certificate of accounts from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017. It is signed by Mr. Conway and also Ms Rea Walshe.

Mr. Donal Conway

What is the document again?

It is the overall certificate for accounts for the year under the Companies Act.

Ms Rea Walshe

Is that the B1?

Yes. It is in the documentation. The accounts for 2017 were signed off on by Ms Walshe and Mr. Conway.

Ms Rea Walshe

That is technically incorrect. The accounts were signed off by the president and the honorary treasurer. Mr. Conway and I signed the B1 as being an accurate reflection of the accounts that were signed off and were being submitted to the Companies Registration Office, CRO.

Were these the accounts?

Ms Rea Walshe

No, we were confirming that these were the accounts that had been signed off by the board and that the contents contained within the B1 in relation to directors were correct.

Ms Walshe's and Mr. Conway's signatures were to confirm that the accounts had been signed off, etc. Would it be fair to say that all of the board as a corporate body signed off on the accounts? I think it would be fair to say that the board as a collective signed off on the accounts for that year.

Mr. Donal Conway


As a board, it was legally accountable for these accounts. Is that correct?

Mr. Donal Conway


I wonder because it appears that the fact is that these accounts were signed off on but they are not a true and accurate account, as has come to pass, because of the omission of the €100,000 loan. Is Mr. Conway confident that the board is not in breach of Part 6 of the Companies Act 2014? Is it a case for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement? I read that the board has contacted it.

Ms Rea Walshe

We have made notification to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The €100,000 is within the accounts but it does not affect the balance sheet. However a note -----

Sorry, it is in the accounts?

Ms Rea Walshe

My understanding is there may have been a requirement for a note to be included in the accounts in relation to the €100,000. We have notified the ODCE.

Right, but when did that requirement come? It was not there in 2017, I presume it was not there in 2018. Did it just come about when this came to light a few weeks ago?

Ms Rea Walshe

When this came to light we made a notification to the Office of the Director for Corporate Enforcement.

Right, it was just when the matter came into the public domain. Who issued the note? Who furnished the note into the accounts to account for the €100,000 loan just recently?

Ms Rea Walshe

That was on the recommendation of the Office of the Director for Corporate Enforcement.

Right, and that was furnished because the loan came to light. Mr. Conway, responding to Deputy Catherine Murphy, said that the fact of the matter was that the loan was managed the way it was managed. The question is why it was managed in that way. We are still none the wiser as to that. The FAI representatives also said that the awareness of the loan was confined to a certain number of people. Are the FAI representatives saying that the three people, or perhaps more, that information was confined to deliberately chose not to inform the rest of the board? It returns to the board as a corporate body having overall responsibility. The FAI also declared that it is committed to learn from what has happened. No sooner did I hear that but I thought back to the Genesis report in 2002. That report came out of areas of concern, shall we say, that had arisen. It contained serious recommendations in relation to the code of governance that were never implemented so how can the FAI expect people to have confidence that it will learn from what has happened if it has not corrected all of its errors from the past?

The internal report was mentioned. When I first read that the FAI was bringing Grant Thornton in to assist but also to investigate the €100,000 loan I wondered why would a board bring in somebody else to investigate something the people in the room here know the answers to?

The same response was given today that Grant Thornton is investigating. We also have the statement from John Delaney but the people here know the answers. It appears that the two fingers are being given to Sport Ireland, this committee, the grassroots of the FAI and sports clubs. Does Mr. Conway agree?

Mr. Donal Conway

I do not agree with the last part of the statement from Deputy Munster. I would not agree at all.

Explain that. Why has an outside company been engaged to investigate something the people in this room know the answers to? Why does Mr. Conway thank that is not giving the two fingers to everybody? I am asking that question because it appears the board of the FAI has not been accustomed to public scrutiny of this nature for a long time.

Mr. Donal Conway

I said in my statement that we receive public funding and the scrutiny that the Deputy correctly refers to follows that money. The board is not giving, as she describes it, two fingers to anybody. The board brought in Grant Thornton as a resource and a support for our finance department. Perhaps everybody in the room, as the Deputy claims, knows the ins and outs of certain financial transactions.

No, I am saying that some of the board members here today know the answers but they are not forthcoming. That is my point.

Mr. Donal Conway

I made an attempt-----

Look at the statement.

I am happy to let Mr. Conway answer the question and then the Deputy can come back in.

Mr. Donal Conway

We have Grant Thornton on site. I have sat down with people from that company and worked on an explanation for the loan of €100,000, and brought that to the committee today. There will be more from Grant Thornton in the sense that we have just recently appointed a new financial officer. I want Grant Thornton to be there for some time to help that individual to ensure that the way we manage our finance department is done to the very highest standards. That would be a very positive benefit as I see it and the board sees it from the presence of Grant Thornton.

Does Mr. Conway believe the finance department has not been managed to the highest possible standards up to now?

Mr. Donal Conway

I believe a review in that area and, indeed, other areas, of our association is a good thing.

Mr. Donal Conway

The Genesis report was in 2002 and maybe it is long overdue-----

I was going to say the Genesis report was in 2002 but not all of the recommendations of that report were implemented. Some of the witnesses have been on the board since 2002. It appears none of them has seen fit to ensure all those recommendations were implemented, including the appointment of two non-executive independent board members.

I want to ask Mr. Conway about the creation of the new role for John Delaney. Given all the information has come to light, including Sport Ireland not being informed of the financial difficulties in accordance with the conditions for grant approval; the €100,000 loan was not in the account; the board members who are expected to hold the CEO to account were also not informed, as Mr. Conway stated, does he think it was appropriate to create a new position for the former CEO? Does he, as president of the FAI, think that is good governance? Does it send out a good message? Was it a good decision by the board? Some people might say it appears that the FAI, as it currently stands, is not fit for purpose.

Deputy Munster has a minute left.

Given all that has happened, that position has not been rescinded to show, as Mr. Conway declared earlier, his commitment to learn from what has happened. The creation of the new role does not appear to show that. It might be stated that it was created prior to, or after the events. Either way it is irrelevant. The new role that the FAI created has not been rescinded. Was that role advertised? If it was not advertised, is that good governance? Does Mr. Conway accept that people have the perception that this appears to be the same old, same old from the board of the FAI? Does he further accept that even by virtue of events today, the opening statements, etc., the FAI is being reflected in a very bad light throughout the State?

I ask Mr. Conway to address those questions and then I will call Deputy Coppinger.

Mr. Donal Conway

I am going to try and pick up on some of the questions.

That is fine. Mr. Conway is free to reply appropriately.

Mr. Donal Conway

As chairman of the board, the image of the FAI is of course important. Harming that image is a matter of serious concern to us. We want to ensure we have good governance in the FAI.

Regarding the new appointment, it was dictated by a series of projects which I referenced earlier, including potentially hosting major international competitions. No other member of the FAI is a member of the executive committee of UEFA. No other member of the FAI is a chair and vice chair of key UEFA committees. No other member of the FAI has a presence at FIFA.

My question was on good governance.

Mr. Donal Conway

I understand-----

I want to get this right. I want Mr. Conway to answer the questions. Then in fairness to other Deputies, I must move on. I am happy for Mr. Conway to answer but I am conscious of the time remaining for other members.

Mr. Donal Conway

Deputy Munster could challenge us on good governance if a number of people could have fitted the role of executive vice president, as defined and with the responsibilities attached, but it was the board's view that there was one person who would suitably be able to manage those projects in the role of executive vice president. The role was not advertised because we felt that we had the right fit for projects which can be of significant-----

Mr. Donal Conway

It was because membership at the highest level of UEFA and contacts within UEFA and FIFA were all going to be of benefit in trying to manage the series of projects we assigned to that role.

If the role had been advertised, it might have been discovered that there might have been somebody else out there who might have-----

Mr. Donal Conway

I know the members of the UEFA executive committee and the members of FIFA. I know who those people are. I would like to think that many more Irish people were eligible-----

So why not advertise the role?

Mr. Donal Conway

We felt there was somebody who had the skill set that matched the role.

I call Deputy Coppinger.

I welcome the witnesses to the meeting. I will start by clarifying that we got this information during this meeting today. The meeting that took place between the former CEO, the finance director and the financial controller was an internal finance meeting. Were there no minutes of that meeting? Is that the norm?

Mr. Donal Conway

I would have to establish how the exchanges were recorded.

It was a private meeting with no minutes, by the sound of it.

Mr. Donal Conway

It would have been a finance department meeting with the CEO present.

That is highly unusual for a major organisation.

The information regarding the extraordinary and unusual shortfall, as it is characterised, in funds and a very unusual loan was not formally presented to the board for nearly two years. Is that correct?

Mr. Donal Conway

That is correct.

The board was not informed by the chief executive or the others involved. Should the former chief executive officer have told Mr. Conway about that? Does Mr. Conway feel he failed in not telling him?

Mr. Donal Conway

I understand why the transaction happened the way it happened. It was a short-term difficulty. This was a solution.

My question is either “Yes” or “No”. Should he not have told Mr. Conway?

Mr. Donal Conway

I said earlier that I do not see that this should be a practice we apply going forward if these difficulties arise.

However, he should have told the board about it.

Mr. Donal Conway

The three members involved – the president or whoever - could have-----

Will Mr. Conway agree that in any other organisation, or any Mickey Mouse club, if its board was not informed of such serious financial information, serious questions would be asked?

Mr. Donal Conway

I am dealing with the organisation of which I am part. There was a question earlier about if a League of Ireland club or some other organisation did this. I am dealing with the organisation of which I am part.

What about any club at all? If that happened in any organisation, does Mr. Conway believe that the people involved would have been asked to stand down, pending an investigation?

Mr. Donal Conway

We have a number of investigations in play.

However, nobody involved in the transaction has stepped down.

Mr. Donal Conway

There are a number of investigations in play, internally and externally. Findings and reports will be shared with key stakeholders.

Sport Ireland is withholding grants, as it announced yesterday, and in his statement, Mr. Conway stated that the FAI’s grassroots is highly dependent on those grants. Given these repercussions, should Mr. Conway not have asked the former chief executive officer to resign?

Mr. Donal Conway

Sport Ireland said at the committee’s meeting last week that 5% of our funding comes from Sport Ireland.

Given the potential threat to that now, should Mr. Conway not have asked the chief executive officer to step down pending an investigation into all of this and for not telling Mr. Conway about this for two years?

Mr. Donal Conway

No, my focus now is on managing our relationship with Sport Ireland to ensure later on this year that further tranches of that money will come into the FAI.

Instead of asking the former chief executive officer, who is ultimately responsible, to step down, the board took a decision to follow the recommendation of the Jonathan Hall Associates report and create a new additional position for the board, namely, that of executive vice president. How will this be funded? The FAI has a cash flow problem and it has just created a new position. How will it be funded?

Mr. Donal Conway

We have made changes to senior executive positions. They will be contracts. I am not happy to go into the cost of either that new role or in due course when we appoint a new chief executive officer.

It is very pertinent to governance and funding in the sense of Sport Ireland. Mr. Conway does not know how it will be funded?

Mr. Donal Conway

I am not saying I do not know how it is going to be funded. I said I do not want to discuss that issue at this point in time.

That is in the remit of the committee.

Mr. Donal Conway

Coming back to the committee’s remit, if it may be helpful, it is clear what Sport Ireland funding we get will be spent. It will not be spent on the positions we are talking about.

I am aware of that. It relates to financial sustainability is part of the brief.

Mr. Conway already stated that the board did not feel the necessity to have an interview for this new position because the perfect candidate already existed. Despite all of the non-disclosure of the former chief executive officer and others to the board, does Mr. Conway wish to keep Mr. Delaney because of his connections with UEFA and FIFA?

Mr. Donal Conway

I wish to deploy whatever personnel we have to best effect.

Accordingly, any other issues do not matter because of his connections with UEFA.

Mr. Donal Conway

I want to use the assets of the association to best effect. We have several key projects. Who are the most important personnel to work over those projects? That informed the decisions around the Jonathan Hall report.

The new position the board created was not advertised. The former chief executive officer stated in a radio interview that because he was doing three jobs, he was not able to do them and, accordingly, a new position had to be created. Is Mr. Conway seriously telling us that is the reason for this? Is it not a demotion of the former chief executive officer?

Mr. Donal Conway

What I am seriously telling the committee is that I think, going forward, having a chief executive officer who manages, looks after the domestic game and our international teams and leads our executive team is important. There are many other member associations which UEFA have. Then there is a separate position of executive vice president. The board feels that will serve the FAI better going forward.

That would be fine except it happens to coincide with public revelations about this loan. Is that coincidental?

Mr. Donal Conway

The discussion about better arranging our senior executives has gone on for many months.

Mr. Delaney stated that for legal reasons he does not wish to talk about his role as former chief executive officer or the loan. However, he is willing and happy to talk about his current role. He stated that this role is to focus more because he could not previously do the three jobs which were mounting up. Would it be fair to say, however, that he is double-jobbing as executive vice president and as a member of the UEFA committee?

Mr. John Delaney

The answer to that is “No”. The president is quite right that a number of months ago we would have discussed the time constraints and the amount of time I have had to spend doing effectively three roles. As Deputy Troy stated, every weekend I would go to grassroots functions, visiting over 2,000 clubs in a period. Second, I was trying to manage a business which has a turnover of almost €50 million and 205 full-time staff. Third, I was on the board of UEFA and managing specific projects that were outlined by both the president and me. My role now is as a member of the board of UEFA but also to manage the specific projects we have outlined. I will be able to use my strengths in those specific roles to, hopefully, bring big tournaments to Ireland, bring more funding back to the FAI for grassroots as well as for the running of the game as well.

Does Mr. Delaney think it is fair that he is answerable to the public in his roles, including in his current role, given that the public contributes through the buying of match tickets, football jerseys and merchandise? While he has stated that, for legal reasons and following the Angela Kerins case, he is not willing to talk about it, does he not think he has a duty to the public to answer some questions?

Mr. John Delaney

I have read my statement as it is.

On his current role, would it be fair or accurate to state that the salary for that is more than the total League of Ireland prize money?

Obviously, that is a question to which everybody would like an answer. However, Mr. Delaney does not have to answer that question.

He can if he wants to.

No. We must be honest about this.

He can choose not to.

He can answer it if he wishes to do so. However, he does not have to if he does not want to. Our role as a committee is to stay within our remit. As the Deputy knows, I am obliged to point that out.

Mr. Delaney stated that he is willing to answer about his current role, which is very much connected to club development.

The Deputy’s time is up on this. Everybody will get in again a second time.

Can I finish with one last question?

There is another vote in the Seanad.

I was going to suggest that Senator O’Mahony should go next and that he be followed by Deputy O’Keeffe.

I have not asked any questions yet.

I know and apologise. On my list is Deputy O'Keeffe, and Senators Ó Céidigh and Feighan.

Senators must go to the Seanad to vote.

I understand. I will facilitate the Senators when they return.

I thank the Chairman.

Does the Chairman have my name on his list?

It is Senator Mark Daly and then the Deputy. We have agreed that Members of the committee get pride of place but I have no doubt Deputy Healy-Rae will make a significant contribution. I call Deputy O'Keeffe.

I welcome the FAI delegation here today. I shall follow on from the previous questions that centre around the issue of €100,000. Would an organisation with the clout and budget of the FAI not finance officers to do a financial budgeting cashflow, forecasting and financial planning for the year ahead? If it did then it would know what is coming down the road. The FAI should have seen this coming down the road and that such an extraordinary issue would arise.

Mr. Donal Conway

We do a budget every year. We look at the profit and loss at every board meeting. We look at the outturn to budget and if there is any variance. In 2017, there would be points in the year when there could be some strain on cashflow. There would be other points of the year when there would be significant cash balances. Of course, there is a budget and of course there is scrutiny of how our finances progress during the year.

Obviously coming into the period of March-April the accounts were about to go over the authorised overdraft limit. Could the FAI not have seen that coming last December when a full board met to do the budget forecast and annual accounts?

Mr. Donal Conway

If one looks at this year our under-19s have qualified for the European Championships. That means the squad has gone through the initial phase, the elite phase and has now reached the finals. That success will bring demands for hundreds of thousands of euro to facilitate their playing in the finals. It is brilliant and a fantastic achievement from a football point of view. Something may happen in the course of the year which will put extra demands on the association's finances. We clearly know our revenue streams but a payment from UEFA or FIFA that is due in February may come in June. This kind of issue can arise.

I know where Mr. Conway is coming from. As he said, the FAI plans ahead so knows when fixtures are coming up, when the FAI must send teams abroad and when money must be given to the clubs and that. Did an exceptional item arise that put a strain on the bank account?

Mr. Donal Conway

We have Grant Thornton on the premises at the moment is to help our finance staff going forward, as the Deputy has said, to know what kind of planning and budgeting is done, to make that more rigorous and ensure nothing like this happens again. That would be one of the upsides of Grant Thornton working with our finance department at the moment.

Right. The 2017 accounts were audited. Did the auditors give them a clean bill of health?

Mr. Donal Conway

My recollection is they did. There was no qualification is my recollection of that.

I understood from what Sport Ireland said last week that some items in the accounts had to be qualified. Were some items questioned by the auditors?

Mr. Donal Conway

There was a reference to a "qualified" but I am not quite sure that is the case.

Was there a loan of €1.3 million? Am I right?

Did that figure include the €100,000?

It is €1.3 million. Shall I read what was said by Sport Ireland?

Sport Ireland stated:

The committee should note that as part of the mid-term financial review of FAI's 2017 and in advance of the final tranche Sports Ireland's financial controller raised a query with the FAI in relation to the 2017 liquidity position and, specifically, the introduction of a bank overdraft facility of €1.3 million and the increase net debit position in 2017.

That is the issue. I cannot give the page number as the pages are not numbered. It is on Sport Ireland-----

Mr. Donal Conway

Sorry, that is not Deloitte or audited. That is the Sport Ireland audit.

Yes, I know that.

Sport Ireland's accounts are on foot of the FAI's accounts produced to Sport Ireland to progress the drawdown of grant and it raised a question.

I have been advised that I quoted the FAI's financial statement to Sport Ireland in 2017.

I might come back to the matter later.

Mr. Donal Conway

Deputy, I do not want to not answer a question if there is a question.

Mr. Donal Conway

I have some of the finance department here and I can revisit the matter for the Deputy. Once I am clear what we need to check we can check it, yes.

I thank Mr. Conway.

Apologies, on that statement.

Mr. Conway introduced an additional addendum from Grant Thornton in his opening statement. It would be good, and in the interests of this committee, the public and the people who are watching, to get this a signed copy of that. He did say that the board asked Grant Thornton to focus on the issue of the €100,000, which came back with some documentation and then the FAI deliberated on that and formulated a response. Can Grant Thornton verify the matter? If so, it might clear the air and, more important, clarify what part of the Companies Act it had concerns about regarding the €100,000.

Mr. Donal Conway

I may have misled the Chairman earlier when I talked about the Grant Thornton report. That obviously is not a report. That is Grant Thornton's review of a particular financial transaction.

I am not being rude but it is the FAI's account. It is a statement from the FAI.

Mr. Donal Conway


I am not arguing with Mr. Conway about the matter.

Mr. Donal Conway

Of course.

I am just being factual. Grant Thornton was not mentioned in the review at all and I just point that out as a fact.

Mr. Donal Conway

I verified that with Grant Thornton, Mr. Chairman, that is what I was trying to say earlier. Clearly, it is not the report which will be something of substance later on for us.

Mr. Donal Conway

I verified that understanding of the transaction with Grant Thornton. I appreciate what the Chairman is saying. I know that there is no stamp or sign-off on it but yesterday, in preparation for today, I verified that statement with Grant Thornton.

Last week, I did not get a proper answer to my query. Maybe the transaction was incorrect. Is Grant Thornton saying the transaction was legal or illegal?

The FAI is accountable to the UEFA and FIFA in terms of how it is structured. Is that right? We are limited in what we can say to the FAI. More important, we are limited in what the Government can say or do to the FAI. We will not go back to what happened in Spain in 2017 when there was a threat of Government involvement in the election of the president of the governing body of the football association. Have FIFA or UEFA knocked on the FAI's door since all of this came out to ask what is going on?

Mr. Donal Conway

I have had no communication from FIFA over the past number of weeks. UEFA had a number of personnel here because we launched the draw for the under-17 finals. There were some reasonably senior people from UEFA there but nobody raised any issues with me. There has been no communication on these issues from either organisation.

The fact that the board was not aware leads me to my next question. Before the financial officer or whoever turned to the then CEO, and I know there was a short deliberation, was there not enough time to approach the local bank manager and say, "Listen, extend the overdraft from €1.5 million to €1.6 million?"

In fairness, the CEO was safeguarding the reputation of the bank and the worst thing one can ever do is have a cheque bounce in one's face. A cheque lodged in a bank takes three days to clear. What would have happened if the people who were looking for the money had approached the bank in advance? What was the advantage of the loan, unless the CEO went with €100,000 in cash in a bag to the bank? The optics are not good. While it might not be illegal, it does not look good. That is why the representatives want clearance from the Grant Thornton report.

Sport Ireland told the committee that it would make no call until we had deliberated as well. Has Sport Ireland asked the FAI whether it could fast-track its audit of the accounts? Every three years, Sport Ireland conducts an audit of the various organisations it governs, and this year it is the turn of the FAI.

At the meeting last Friday between the FAI and Sport Ireland, they agreed on certain issues relating to Mazars and Grant Thornton. However, Sport Ireland subsequently decided not to-----

I accept that but some members of the committee are not happy with Mazars being appointed. Why does the Sport Ireland team not fast-track its own audit?

We can ask the organisation next week.

An bhfuil sé ceart go leor dom tosú?

Is féidir leis an Seanadóir Gaolainn a labhairt liomsa am ar bith.

Gabhaim buíochas leis na hionadaithe ón FAI as ucht teacht isteach inniu. Tá a fhios agam nach raibh orthu teacht isteach. Ba mhaith liom cúpla rud a rá i dtosach. Bhí mé ag breathnú ar na cuntais.

According to the association's financial accounts, the turnover in 2013 was approximately €37.5 million, while by 2017, it had increased to approximately €50 million. In fairness, that is some increase and we must call a spade a spade in that regard. Many clubs throughout the country are very supportive of what the FAI has been doing and I have spoken to some sponsors who believe they have been treated very professionally.

I have some questions about corporate governance, although I do not wish to repeat questions that my colleagues have asked. I am very disappointed that documents which were not available to the committee in advance were submitted during the meeting. It is regrettable and we should have had them in advance. I was one of the members who spoke about that in private session. Mr. Conway stated earlier that the bottom line is everyone wants a much better and stronger FAI for everybody, that is, for anybody wearing the green jersey or any jersey, be it a club jersey or whatever, in any form of sport. The FAI is an important and strong organisation.

On corporate governance, would Mr. Conway, as chairman, handle any areas differently in hindsight? Are there any areas where the FAI should not have acted, or where it did not act but should have done so? What lessons will he take from what happened?

Mr. Donal Conway

I have been chairman since last August only, which is only a number of months ago. In response to another member, I indicated that a root-and-branch examination of the organisation is overdue. I do not say that because I see failures or an unsuccessful organisation, but any organisation should engage at regular intervals, with external help, in some examination of how well it is equipped to implement its strategy, mission and what it is about. Given the difficulties we have now, let us make of them. That may sound a little strange but, for example, the Senator referred to corporate governance. We have a corporate governance group but my colleagues on the board and I believe we need to move that on to something much stronger, with external persons on board. We had this conversation with Sport Ireland and, indeed, asked them whether they want a role in nominating people for to that group. My colleague, Ms Walshe, is a member of the group, as are two external people who have previously been involved with the FAI, namely, Miriam Malone, CEO of Paralympics Ireland and Tom Jordan, who worked with some of our senior executives-----

I apologise for interrupting but I am concerned about my time. Notwithstanding that Mr. Conway has been in his current role for a short period, he has been on the board for quite a while.

Mr. Donal Conway

For 13 years.

Five members have been on the board for at least 15 years. What did the board do wrong that it will do right in future? I would like Mr. Conway to list some lessons the board has learned. If he is happy with everything and satisfied that the process has evolved normally, that is fine but I would like a one-sentence answer.

Mr. Donal Conway

It may take more than one sentence. On foot of the Genesis report, we radically changed the board and put key committees in place below it. The issue has been raised and we have committed to revisiting whether all those committees are fit for purpose and whether we should consider overhauling that aspect of our governance, for example. In a practical sense, the matter has been under discussion for months, it has been raised with our council, and we are committed to examining it. That is number one.

I have had some involvement in business. A turnover of €50 million is significant. There is nothing illegal about an employee giving a loan to a company. It is quite unusual but it can happen. It is incredibly unusual that the board was not formally aware of it. It is also incredibly unusual that it was not reported as a note to the accounts. FRS 102 and the companies legislation require disclosures of related party transactions, which is significant particularly in the light of the clear audit opinion the association received, as I understand. Questions, therefore, need to be answered.

While I accept the evidence given by Mr. Delaney at face value and I do not seek anything personal or detailed outside of that; I am instead considering the matter overall. Mr. Conway mentioned that monthly cash flows, projections, variance analyses and so on are reported to the board by the financial controller. I find it difficult to understand the figure of €100,000 given that the FAI had a turnover of €50 million and €22.3 million in net total assets, with a profit of €2.7 million in the year in question. Could the FAI not have held off €100,000 worth of creditors for a little while? As Deputy O'Keeffe suggested, could it not have reverted to the bank to ask for another €100,000 as a short-term facility? There is a significant disjoint in that regard. While I will not challenge the former CEO, I will challenge the board on its engagement and corporate governance. Mr. Conway might comment on that and, in particular, on the fact that the board was not formally aware of the loan for two years.

Mr. Donal Conway

That is something we must learn from. As I have stated repeatedly, we will have to ensure that it will not happen again and we will put in place whatever is necessary in that regard.

Did this happen ever before?

Mr. Donal Conway

Not to my knowledge.

And Mr. Conway has been on the board for 13 years. It never happened before to his knowledge so it was totally out of the ordinary.

I will not go back over the other questions members have asked. He referred to Mazars and Grant Thornton in his submission. There was a question of the scoping paper. I am aware that it is a question for the FAI but I would ask him to reflect on making that scoping paper available publicly. I believe it would be in the FAI's best interests. It is the FAI's call. I am not a board member. Who engaged both Mazars and Grant Thornton and who is paying them?

Mr. Donal Conway

The association will pay for Grant Thornton and Mazars. The board arrived at that decision on foot of advice from advisers.

I am not being disrespectful but it is, therefore, not totally independent. It is not totally at arm's length.

Mr. Donal Conway

Mazars is independent.

But the FAI is paying them and has created the scoping document for them.

Mr. Donal Conway

There are negotiated terms of reference.

Is the FAI paying them and did the FAI create the scoping document? It is a "Yes" or "No" answer.

Mr. Donal Conway

We will be, yes.

Tá nóiméad amháin fágtha ag an Seanadóir.

Fágfaidh mé ansin é. Gabhaim buíochas leis an Uasal Conway as ucht a bheith oscailte liom. I appreciate it.

I apologise that I do not have a pair so I must vote in the Upper House at some stage.

In light of some of the questions I asked Sport Ireland a week ago, I was concerned that the FAI did not have an independent member on the board, as was mentioned in the Mazars report. Why did that not happen? Perhaps this question has already been asked of the witnesses.

Mr. Donal Conway

There was an earlier question referring to the Genesis report.

Yes. I am sorry, I meant the Genesis report.

Mr. Donal Conway

Ms Walshe will address this.

Ms Rea Walshe

The Genesis report is from 2002. It was initiated to review operational matters in the preparation and support of the Irish team at the 2002 World Cup; consider the appropriateness and effectiveness of these procedures and arrangements against other similar international operators; examine how the senior team fits into the FAI structures; and recommend a strategy for the FAI to devise suitable policies to achieve greater and consistent success during the next European and World Cup campaigns.

That report made a number of recommendations, many of which were implemented. At the very end of the report - and just outside of the recommendations - it suggests support for its implementation and states:

This should include the appointment of a vice president or chairman from within the sport for a period of four years to work with the president and other directors (including non-executive directors from outside the FAI) ... the executive to design and manage the process of change ... External assistance is also likely to be required in the following areas: facilitation of key discussions, planning and integration, developing the top team and input of specific skills.

I was not at the FAI in 2002 but I understand that there was a major rehaul of processes and the board. The board went from a 23-man board down to a ten-man board. It went up to an 11-member board when we brought in the women's football committee chairman but it has now gone back down to ten members. There was major consultation with all of our stakeholders, which was well documented in the newspapers. The FAI went around the country to consult stakeholders. The consultation resulted in the standing committees, as Mr. Conway alluded to, which are currently in place. Unfortunately, there were no non-executive directors at the time. That is not unusual in sport. Sports governance is different from corporate governance. I understand that not all sporting bodies within Ireland or outside of Ireland have non-executive directors on their boards currently. However, I believe that during my time on the governance committee in the FAI we have made great changes. We still have time to implement the governance code but one of the recommendations or considerations is that we would bring an independent member onto the board of directors.

I understand that but let us say that Sport Ireland, that is, the taxpayer and the Government, is giving €2.7 million per year, then surely there should be such an independent board member. I say this is a difficulty on behalf of the Government. Surely there should be an independent member on the board in the interest of the outcome of the Genesis report and in the interests of fairness. Is the FAI be open to putting an independent member onto the board who may come from some Government Department, given that so much money is going into the FAI?

Mr. Donal Conway

In our conversations with Sport Ireland, we talked about putting an independent person on the current subgroup of the board that is working on these issues. We have also spoke with them about installing a much more powerful governance committee. The recommendations from that could almost invariably take us to having independent directors, and we will engage with Sport Ireland on that.

Sponsors are stakeholders and they are very important to a body such as the FAI. Have they expressed any concern at the current situation in the FAI? Has there been any negative impact from sponsors?

Mr. Donal Conway

I have not heard directly. Any of the major sponsors have not communicated directly with the board. To be fair, that is not something I would have asked the commercial director, but I can. The commercial director has not brought anything to our attention about sponsorship being in jeopardy. Sponsorships come and go, as members will be aware, and we are negotiating with various potential sponsors currently. We hope to retain the significant sponsorship we have.

I refer to FIFA and UEFA. Mr. Delaney is the executive vice president of the FAI with responsibility for FIFA and UEFA matters. FIFA certainly has not been the most open group. Sepp Blatter was the general secretary since 1981 and president since 1998. He has been suspended since 2015 for corruption and financial mismanagement and he has been ejected from office for eight years. How different has the FAI been from FIFA in the past few years? I would put this question to a lot of the football associations around, not just to the FAI.

Mr. John Delaney

I will take the FIFA query. The current FIFA president is Gianni Infantino. FIFA has changed remarkably in his period there. This is well accepted. I work closely with the UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin, and he has brought UEFA forward incredibly well over the past number of years. They are two parent bodies of the FAI. UEFA is a significant funder of the FAI and FIFA's revenues are increasing with the association. I could not speak higher of how UEFA is run under the stewardship of its current president. There is no doubt that FIFA has come a remarkable distance. The recent vote for the World Cup was transparent and open. When the "United" bid won, it was put up on the screens. I could not but commend both organisations on how they are run. There are key funding negotiations to come into the future with regard to our centralised television deals. I also hope that UEFA will run a television channel on social media for domestic leagues where the League of Ireland could well get a global audience. This is very important to the association and to me coming from a League of Ireland background. We work very closely with both bodies the Senator has mentioned. They are significant funders but they are also a significant resource support to the FAI. They are two very well run organisations.

Every time one hears of the FAI there is another report coming be it Jonathan Hall Associates, Mazars or Grant Thornton. These reports must be expensive.

Does Mr. Conway have a ball park figure on how much the reports will cost? I am sure the Government and this committee will also incur significant expenditure.

Mr. Donal Conway

I could not disclose that figure.

Are we talking tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands?

Mr. Donal Conway

Hopefully, what we are doing will be worthwhile in the long term. I am not in a position to go into figures. That would be commercially sensitive.

Many of the questions have been asked already. I will not go into them in great detail but I would like to get clarity on some of them. On the issue of John Delaney's appointment to his new role, I do not know Mr. Delaney very well but I know that as an ambassador for Ireland and Irish sports he has done an amazing job and I am sure he will do an amazing job in this regard. He has worked on anti-racism and integration. I have been involved in the Oireachtas soccer teams that have taken part in games in this regard. It is important to highlight issues such as these and sport is a great way of doing so. Mr. Delaney has taken on board certain initiatives and has been very successful in doing so.

My colleague, Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe, asked a technical but important question. Am I correct that the €100,000 cheque was made out to a particular person? Is that correct? Was there a concern about a number of cheques? What is the overall figure of all the cheques? We have all been in a situation where we have written cheques whereby if they were all lodged in the same week, we would not have had enough money to meet them. Was it one particular cheque that the FAI thought would be the one to tip it over with regard to what was in its account? Deputy O'Keeffe made a very interesting point. If I were in that position, I would not write a cheque but do a cash transfer because by the time my cheque arrived in the account, it might not be cleared. Then the cheque on the other side would be processed and also might not be cleared. I am concerned about the logistics. The first thing I would do if the €100,000 would tip me over the edge would be to ask the recipient to hold off until the following Monday as I would be okay by then. Deputy O'Keeffe made a very interesting point on this. He stated one would not write cheques but would make cash transfers from one bank account to another so it would be immediate. One would then not be worried about whether a cheque was lodged. More importantly, in the normal course of events - perhaps this is why it would be helpful to have the report in full - one would just ring up the guys and ask them not to cash the cheque this week and tell them it would be okay for the following week. I am sure that would not have caused anyone any undue stress. This is a very technical point. Other than that, all of my other questions have already been asked.

My next question is for Ms Walsh, the interim chief executive officer, whom I wish the best success. I suggest that a percentage of the new board be from both genders, whatever that may be. One of the criticisms I have of the FAI is its treatment of women. The women's national team and underage structure should receive equal treatment. That is my point. They should get the same amount of resources. Clearly, they do not, the reason being they do not bring in revenue, and we understand that. However, look at what Croke Park manages to do with regard to ladies' football on the one day of the year it is the biggest sporting event for women. Equal treatment is required. In fairness, the GAA has come a long way but it has not come all the way. We cannot have the national ladies' football team handing over tracksuits in an airport. I hope that the issue of gender equality on the board will be part of governance, and bear in mind women make up 50% of the population. They would give a different viewpoint. Perhaps in some instances, when everybody else is going off and doing something, having more women on the main board and all of the governance committees and making this a policy-----

Does that apply to Fianna Fáil as well?

We have loads of women throughout our organisation, including spokespersons. Deputy Lisa Chambers is doing an excellent job on Brexit. I am sure if she were in Westminster, she would have sorted it out a long time ago, as would all of the women.

As part of the governance review, the FAI should make sure the women's soccer team and all of the women who will, I hope, account for half of participants in soccer in future are represented. By the way, the reason this issue will not be raised by Grant Thornton and all of the others is that it is men who will write the reports and they have a bias. They keep forgetting they should be doing this. Perhaps out of this the FAI should make a commitment to ensure equal treatment for the ladies' football team and give a commitment to have a substantial percentage of women within its governance structure. I would say the figure should be 50% because women make up half of the population and half of the funding the FAI receives from the Government is supplied by women because they pay tax too. They are entitled to have representation across the board of every sporting organisation but as the FAI is here today, I make the request of it. I wish the interim CEO the best of luck and I hope she will become the permanent CEO at some stage.

As Chairman, I will ask a few questions.

Mr. Donal Conway

May I respond to Senator Daly? I have read out various figures today. Equality is the issue and it is not the issue in this sense. In my address, I spoke about the SPAR primary school fives. Of all of our programmes, it has the highest female participation, as 42% or 43% of the 37,000 participants are female. Senator Daly rightly stressed the importance of equality. Our challenge, which is the challenge of every sport, is that at the ages of 13, 14, 17 and 18, in excess of 40% of participants will still be female. It is fantastic to see it in the primary school fives, which involves fourth, fifth and sixth classes in primary schools throughout the country getting their day out in the Aviva Stadium. It is a brilliant day when they come up. It is not graded. Schools play based on enrolment figures so it is not the case that a big school will get there ahead of a small school. The competitions are based on enrolment. I have mentioned the 43% female participation and the challenge for us is to try to keep this percentage the whole way up, including at board level and having female coaches, referees and administrators.

I want to move on.

I did not use the full ten minutes. I have a question on-----

Excuse me, Senator, will you listen to me for a minute, please? We are under pressure as we must be out of here at 1.45 p.m..

I did not use the ten minutes available to me.

The Senator's ten minutes are up.

No, they are not up.

They are up.

Sorry, Chairman, I do not want to go back on the record on this.

Sorry, again-----

With regard to governance, Mr. Conway did not answer-----

Senator Daly-----

-----and I know he wants to address the issue of governance at board level.

I am running this meeting. If Senator Daly does not-----

Will the FAI put more women on the board?

Senator Daly is being very unfair to all of us.

I have no problem with the participation because the FAI is excellent on that.

We have had a good meeting and it has been fair. Senator Daly got his ten minutes.

I did not get my ten minutes.

You did get your ten minutes. The Clerk told me you got your ten minutes.

No, I did not take the full ten minutes.

Sorry, you said you had completed.

Yes, but-----

I just want to be fair.

I asked a question and it has not been answered.

I want to continue. We have all put a lot of effort into this. I am glad Senator Daly is here today but we have been here many times to get this right and I do not want any of this stuff going on. I want to give everybody a fair chance. I am Chairman and I have a few questions. This is all about accountability. Equality is an issue but this is about the accountability of the association and the serious questions that arise in that regard. If we start at the very basic unit of accountability, is it a fact that at the FAI's AGM nobody can ask a question?

Mr. Donal Conway

That is not true.

I believe it is in the rule book.

Mr. Donal Conway

It is not in our rule book.

I have been told it is. People must give prior notice of a question.

Mr. Donal Conway

That is correct.

In that case, people cannot ask a question unless they state it beforehand. If I go to the AGM and want to ask about the €100,000, I cannot do so. I cannot ask about governance. I am getting to the point of accountability. All of the young people who play the sport have been mentioned and this is fantastic. Hundreds of thousands of people play the sport every day and every week, their families are dedicated and the children just love it. We all know this and we love to see them participating. They will have no money in the next tranche because the FAI has not satisfied Sport Ireland on its governance.

The children which Mr. Conway rightly talks about are being deprived of the support we want to give them as taxpayers. What is the FAI going to do about it and what governance changes is it going to bring about? He spoke about 2020-21 but who would have anything to do with an organisation that the State refuses to fund on governance grounds?

Mr. Donal Conway

Sport Ireland has suspended funding.

Mr. Donal Conway

At a meeting last Friday, we committed to engaging with Sport Ireland. Sport Ireland will know the terms of reference of our independent review and will get the findings and the full report of the review.

Sport Ireland stopped funding after that meeting.

Mr. Donal Conway

I appreciate that. Sport Ireland held a board meeting.

A statement was shared and agreed but, subsequent to that, Sport Ireland said, "No".

Mr. Donal Conway

Our challenge is to rebuild that relationship and to rebuild trust.

How is the FAI going to do that?

Mr. Donal Conway

We will do it by tackling the issue of governance head on and keeping Sport Ireland aware of the processes we have put in place, which it has a pretty good idea of after Friday. Sport Ireland will see the outcomes and we have invited it to talk to us if it wants to suggest an independent person for a subcommittee or for our governance review. By these things, I would like to think we can restore confidence and, therefore, restore funding.

Will there be change in the organisation?

Mr. Donal Conway

That is what I am saying.

I am not being personal but other members have said that people want change. They want new people and they want them now.

Mr. Donal Conway

There are ten members on the board.

Mr. Donal Conway

Four have come onto the board in the past three or four years. There are many long-serving members but four have come on in the past three to four years.

My other question is on how the FAI talks about the €100,000. The witnesses have described it, variously, as a bridging loan, a short-term loan and simply as an issue. What is it exactly?

Mr. Donal Conway

Using a different word is not trying to create confusion. I referred to it as a financial transaction, which it is. The working assumption is that it was a loan.

Mr. Conway's language keeps changing but the money stays the same. If it was me, I would say it was always a short-term loan. In his statement of 5 May, he said concerns were expressed that some press releases did not accurately reflect the board's level of awareness of the existence of the €100,000. People on the board did not know about it and this is the ethical issue at the core of the problem. Notwithstanding the finances we have here, I ask whether I would want my children to get involved tomorrow. People want real change and I cannot overemphasise that.

Would it help to build confidence if the FAI commissioned an independent forensic audit of the organisation? Would Mr. Conway commit to such a thing?

Mr. Donal Conway

We will do a very wide-ranging independent investigation when Mazars come on board.

I am asking about a forensic audit.

Mr. Donal Conway

The Grant Thornton and Mazars investigations will be very thorough examinations of the FAI.

There is a slight difference. As I understand it, a forensic audit is a particular type of audit. I do not want to be rude but I ask Mr. Conway, for the third time, if he would do such a thing.

Mr. Donal Conway

We have also engaged with the ODCE and that is evidence of the number of processes that have been put in place to undergo a thorough examination.

I think I have Mr. Conway's answer. Sport Ireland was before the committee and its witnesses asked why the FAI did not go to them for the €100,000. They said that Sport Ireland would have been more than happy to help.

Mr. Donal Conway

We came up with a solution.

That is not the question that was asked.

Mr. Donal Conway

We have acknowledged that we should have alerted Sport Ireland.

I did not ask that. Why did the FAI not go to Sport Ireland to look for the money? The FAI could have said there was a short-term problem and that it needed €100,000 that week. The point about the cheque would not have arisen because Sport Ireland would have done a cash transfer to the FAI.

Mr. Donal Conway

The solution was created there and then, at the time. We did not go to Sport Ireland. As I have said, we work very closely with Sport Ireland and the money it gives us is all spent. We would not have done this in the past with Sport Ireland, either.

I will not go any further as other speakers want to come in. I ask Mr. Conway to think of the question of regime change between now and when he comes back in the afternoon.

Am I correct to say there was a governance group in 2017?

Mr. Donal Conway

Yes. That is correct.

What are the names of everybody on that group?

Mr. Donal Conway

They were Rea Walshe, our interim CEO; Miriam Malone, who worked in the FAI and is now the CEO of Paralympics Ireland; and Tom Jordan.

There was no independent person on that group.

Mr. Donal Conway

Miriam Malone works outside the FAI now but she was formerly of the FAI.

A governance subcommittee was appointed in March. What were the names of the people on that?

Mr. Donal Conway

That subcommittee was a subcommittee from the board.

Who were the members?

Mr. Donal Conway

I am the chair. The others were Niamh O'Donoghue, chairperson of the women's football committee; Paraic Treanor, chairman of legal and corporate affairs; Eamon Naughton, chairman of the national league; and Noel Fitzroy, vice president.

There is no independent person on that either. The Genesis report suggested two independent members of the board. I heard that, when the report was published, Mr. Delaney said he would not rest until those two members were put on the board. Mr. Delaney can correct me if I am wrong about this but it appears that, 17 years later, it has not happened. What are the witnesses' comments on that? Am I correctly reporting what Mr. Delaney said? No independent people were put on any of the three committees to which I have referred so the record of governance has not been anywhere near where it should have been.

The financial director at the time was mentioned. My understanding is that there has been a lot of turnover in the staff of the FAI, particularly in financial areas.

Mr. Breen stepped down on 30 March. Is that correct?

Mr. Donal Conway


What is the detail of the overall turnover of financial directors within the FAI in the last six or seven years?

Mr. Donal Conway

We have had four financial directors over the last 15 years. On average, they stay for four or five years. We have had senior executives. I referred to Miriam Malone a minute ago who moved on to Paralympics Ireland and we had another number of senior executives, who I can name if the Senator wants, who have moved on. Sarah O'Shea is with Olympic Federation of Ireland and has a sports consultancy company. Peter Sherrard is the CEO of the Olympic Federation of Ireland. Richard Fahey is the CEO of Tennis Ireland. Stephen Driver is head of advocacy at Ibec. There are more. These are people who have worked with us and moved on. We worked out the average turnover the other day. We have a staff of approximately 200 and we have an average turnover of just under 10%, which I understand is around the norm.

I ask Mr. Delaney about the quote I gave. I do not want to quote him if it is not true.

Mr. John Delaney

Senator O'Mahony is quoting something. I go back to the Genesis report because he is quoting me. The Genesis report arose out of Saipan and the lack of professionalism around team travel arrangements, etc. If one takes time to read the Genesis report and go through the detail of it, one will see that the professionalisation of the association around team travel and everything associated with it has come on in leaps and bounds. Former and current players will tell one that.

Mr. John Delaney

One need only speak to Mick McCarthy who said he did not recognise the association he left as the one he came back to. That is a direct quote from him. As to the board construction, I remind the Senator that we had 23 people on the board at the time. To reduce that down to ten required a great deal of travelling around to the grassroots. I think Mr. Conway accompanied me. Ultimately, it is a members' association and to reduce the board from 23 to ten, practically overnight as we did, was a well-achieved target. I am not sure of the date, but perhaps Ms Walshe can check it for a future time. However, I brought Genesis in subsequently and it gave the association a very strong bill of health as to how it had transformed itself.

The question is whether I am quoting Mr. Delaney correctly to the effect that he would not rest until he had two independent directors.

Mr. John Delaney

I never said there would be two independent directors.

He never said that. I accept that.

It is now close to 1.45 p.m. and a meeting is starting in this room at that time. If it is acceptable to everyone, we will now suspend for lunch and resume at 3 p.m. sharp. I will resume with Deputy Rock, who will have five minutes, followed by Deputy Michael Healy-Rae. We will then go to a ten minute round. I ask that everyone in the Public Gallery remains seated until the delegation has left the room. That is the arrangement we made. I ask everyone to take their belongings with them as others are using the room.

Sitting suspended at 1.45 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.

I will set out some housekeeping arrangements. At 4.15 p.m., we will break for 25 or 30 minutes. If there is still interest in the issues, we will continue until 6 p.m., but we must finish at that point. The order of speakers is Deputy Rock with five minutes, Deputy Michael Healy-Rae with three minutes and Deputy Jonathan O'Brien with three minutes.

My first question is for Mr. Murray, whom I welcome. His name was on the 2016 and 2017 accounts.

Mr. Eddie Murray


Mr. Murray signed off on them.

Mr. Eddie Murray


There was no inclusion of the director's loans. Was Mr. Murray aware of them?

Mr. Eddie Murray

No, not at that time.

Does Mr. Murray feel that he was undermined in his role as treasurer by not being made aware of them?

Mr. Eddie Murray

I would not say I was undermined in my role.

Mr. Murray would not?

Mr. Eddie Murray

No, I would not say "undermined".

Mr. Eddie Murray

Let me finish, please.

Mr. Eddie Murray

It is possible that I should have been informed about it. I was not, but I would not say it was an undermining of my role.

Mr. Murray is ultimately the accounting officer in terms of public funding. Does he not feel that there was a significant issue with the lack of disclosure within the accounts under note 20 and the lack of information given to him?

Mr. Eddie Murray

I would have expected that information to be given to me by some of those who were aware of it prior to the accounts being signed off. As the committee knows, that did not happen.

Indeed. Is Mr. Murray aware of whether the organisation discharged all PAYE returns as they fell due in recent years?

Mr. Eddie Murray

I am sorry, but I am finding it difficult to understand the Deputy.

That is okay. I am referring to PAYE taxation returns.

Mr. Eddie Murray

I understand it is about PAYE returns.

As they fall due, has the organisation discharged those bills in a timely manner?

Mr. Eddie Murray

As far as I am aware, yes.

Is that also Mr. Conway's understanding? A "Yes" will suffice.

Mr. Donal Conway

Yes. If the Deputy wants a reply, I will refer the question to our finance department.

I would appreciate that. Has the organisation always had an active tax clearance certificate?

Mr. Donal Conway

Excuse me, but I might ask Mr. Alex O'Connell, our new finance controller.

Of course. He is welcome to take a seat.

Mr. Donal Conway

He has been in the finance department for a few years, so would be better placed to respond than me. I believe I would be replying "Yes", but let us get it from the source.

Fair enough. If he provided me with the information subsequently, it would be appreciated.

Mr. Donal Conway


I believe my next question has been answered, but I will ask it again to be absolutely clear. Were there ever other director loans, be they declared or undeclared?

Mr. Donal Conway

Not to my knowledge.

The same question for Mr. Murray.

Mr. Eddie Murray

Nor mine.

Let us consider some of the FAI's accounts and the bank overdraft facility. Note 12 of the 2016 accounts contained comparative accounts for 2015. There was a €1.9 million overdraft facility in 2015. Rather, the facility was at least €1.9 million, as there was €1.9 million in the accounts. How was the overdraft facility for the FAI reduced and why was it not increased again? Would that not have bridged the €100,000 in and of itself?

Mr. Eddie Murray

As far as I am aware, we changed our banking people in the interim. As a result, we had different agreements and facilities. We would have had-----

It was entirely as a consequence of the change in banking provider.

Mr. Eddie Murray

It was one of the consequences of that.

We might return to the question of the balance sheet later. On related party transactions, note 20 in the 2016 accounts refers to €430,000. What comprised that amount?

Mr. Eddie Murray

I am not able to give the Deputy an answer now.

Related party transactions. Perhaps the FAI's new financial officer can oblige us with a response.

Mr. Eddie Murray

I do not have a copy of it.

Mr. O'Connell is working on the answer to the previous question. When he has it, he will take the next one.

He is working away. That is fair enough.

These have been good questions, and we will get the answers to them as soon as he has them.

Can we ask him to sit up front with the others?

We have already suggested that he sit there if he wishes.

There is a microphone there.

And a spare seat.

The Deputy has one minute remaining.

It is not like the Deputy not to take his full time.

I will move quickly. I mentioned a football club. It was reported that the club was not able to access its entire prize funds from being involved in European competitions. In December 2010, I understand that Sporting Fingal faced the prospect of leaving players unpaid for Christmas because of the FAI's refusal to pass on the UEFA prize money that was due. My question is for Mr. Murray. Is it fair to say that withholding prize money is a systematic approach within the FAI meant to relieve cash flow pressures?

Mr. Eddie Murray

I would not agree with that at all. Most certainly not.

Mr. Murray might elaborate and explain. A number of clubs seem to have had their funds withheld.

Mr. Eddie Murray

I am not aware of that specific incident. Neither can I comment on specific incidents. Overall, I assure the committee that it is not a policy within the association.

Okay. Mr. Conway, every club-----

I want to be fair to everybody. Let me put it this way, the gentleman at the back will be brought to sit at the front and answer Deputy Rock's questions. That is, of course, the Deputy wishes to ask further questions. Is that fair enough?

I am much obliged. That is fine.

I call Deputy Michael Healy-Rae.

I welcome the delegation. The one thing which is of great concern to all of us is the temporary withdrawal of funding to the association pending the three reports from the FAI, Grant Thornton and Mazars. All I would say about that matters is that any person who has ever been involved in any type of business, regardless of whether it is trading with €50 million or €50,000 a year, has dealt with different problems at various times. If we looked back on the way that we dealt with those problems maybe we would not have dealt with them in the smartest of ways. Hindsight is of great benefit to all of us. I have no doubt that if Mr. Delaney had his time back, perhaps this whole issue would have been dealt with a different way. However, I am quite confident that the only thing Mr. Delaney could be accused of is being passionately committed to his job and to the survival of what I would call the business and that all he was trying to do was good. Of course, there has to be proper governance, there have to be proper accountancy practices but I really cannot for the life of me see how the three reports will not be positive in their findings, thereby allowing for the funding to be restored. The president was questioned about Mr. Delaney's suitability to be the executive vice president of the association. Mr. Delaney's work ethic over the years will show that he is eminently qualified and most definitely the best-qualified person for this new role that has been created for continuity and for dealing with FIFA and UEFA.

It would be very remiss of me not to mention what I know first hand, particularly as we are hearing a lot of other stuff today. I want to remember what Mr. Delaney has done for the association throughout the country. In every club from the grassroots up, locally and nationally - and on the international scene - Mr. Delaney's personal reputation is, in my humble opinion, second to none. People can look-----

The Deputy has one minute left.

Maybe what I am saying does not suit others but I am going to say it.

I am sorry but those are the rules.

The Chairman can eat into his own time, not mine.

No, I want to be very fair.

The Deputy is a joke. We are meant to be asking questions of the delegation.

Did I question Deputy Coppinger?

No, the Deputy is meant to be asking questions of the FAI.

I am sorry, but I will suspend proceedings..

I will ask questions but they will not be like those posed by Deputy Coppinger..

I would just make the point that I am chairing the meeting?

I was interrupted.

I want to be fair to Deputy Michael Healy-Rae. He has sat here all day.

He is not a member of the committee, I appreciate that very much -----

It was so worth it.

-----and that is why I wanted to tell the Deputy that his time was up in a minute, that is all.

I thank the Chairman.

That is being fair.

I want to remind Mr. Delaney's colleagues of what he has done over many years, whether it is with regard to the District League, Mounthawk Park in County Kerry, the Victory Shield tournament, Killarney Athletic, Castleisland Soccer Club or Asdee Rovers.

I will conclude with one observation. At the end of the month, Mr. Delaney is to come to Castleilsand AFC to open the new George O'Callaghan Park. People in the area have been waiting for the facility for 45 years. What I am reliably told is that if it was not for John Delaney and the FAI, the park would not be opening at the end of this month. Mr. Delaney will be most welcome to Kerry. He will get what I would call the mother of all welcomes when he comes to Kerry because his reputation and his respectability will precede him. We will be there to welcome him.

When it comes to accountancy practices, many of us who are in business have to do certain things at certain times. During the recession, people bailed out their own small businesses and did the different things that they had to do to try to be of assistance -----

I think the Deputy has made his point.

If Mr. Delaney is guilty of anything, it is of trying to help an association in the best way that he saw fit at that time. That is all he stands accused of in my book.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien has three minutes.

Sorry, Chairman, but I have a bit of a problem with people making statements for three minutes when those of us who are members of the committee had to stop with our questions.

The Deputy is a Member of the House. He has been sitting here.

He made a statement though.

We all know and expect that Deputy Michael Healy-Rae will seek to have his voice heard. The Deputy does not have to agree with him.

I am sure that a grant is heading down the Kerry way in any event.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien has the floor.

I am being goaded here. If the Deputy minds her business, I will mind my own.

I have to run this meeting in a way that reflects well on all of us. That means everybody.

If people let the side down, that is not my fault.

I call Deputy Jonathan O'Brien.

For clarity, is it three minutes for questions or three minutes for questions and answers?

It is three minutes for questions and answers. We agreed that earlier. The Deputy was not present then but it was agreed.

My first question is for Mr. Murray. How many bank accounts does the FAI currently have?

Mr. Eddie Murray

Just one.

Chairman, Alex O'Connell has been asked to join us on three occasions now.

I am the Chairman. I have offered a chair at the desk to the witness three times. Deputy Rock raised questions and I said that when Mr. O'Connell had the information he was asked for, he would sit there.

That is no good because the questions -----

The Deputy should hold on a second. It might be no good but that is what we agreed. I hear the question that the Deputy is asking. I have seen a different answer. I ask that the gentleman would sit there.

Mr. Donal Conway

My understanding from the list is that Mr. O'Connell is here as an observer.

He was not on the list of invitees.

Mr. Donal Conway

He was not on the list of invitees.

However, the FAI offered to bring him, so there is accountability.

Mr. Donal Conway

Initially we thought that was to support ourselves.

It is to support us because we all trying to get at the facts here.

I am not trying to trip him up.

Mr. Donal Conway

I understand that.

I am only wasting my own time asking the Chairman to ask him.

Mr. Murray stated that he would get the information for the member. He was looking at his notes at that point. Questions were asked about audits. I want to be fair to everyone. It is my wish, and I am sure that it is everyone's wish, that Mr. O'Connell would take his seat and that he would help us and assist us with the questions. That is reasonable.

Mr. Donal Conway

Yes, Chairman. I will ask Mr. O'Connell to take his seat now.

I appreciate that. We will return to the Deputy's question seeking clarity on the number of bank accounts.

While Mr. O'Connell is taking his seat, I will ask my second question. Does the FAI have -----

On a point of order, there is a vacancy on the back row of seats if the guests would like to realign themselves.

I actually do not care where he sits, to be honest.

While Mr. O'Connell is taking his seat and he is getting the answer to how many bank accounts the FAI has, I wish to move on to my second question. Does the FAI produce monthly financial accounts?

Mr. Eddie Murray


Through his association with them, Mr. Gavin will be aware that League of Ireland clubs must submit monthly financial accounts to the FAI.

Mr. Fran Gavin

Is that as part of club licensing?

Yes. If a football club, as part of club licensing, received a large financial donation, would that have to be recorded in its monthly statements?

Mr. Fran Gavin

That would be up to club licensing to address that situation.

To the best of Mr. Gavin's knowledge, is that part of club licensing?

Mr. Fran Gavin

My job as competitions director is to run the competitions. It is not club licensing.

Can anyone tell me if League on Ireland clubs that they receive substantial financial donations in the course of the football year are required to record that information in the monthly financial accounts submitted to the FAI?

Or in the next accounting period thereafter.

Mr. Fran Gavin

Anything coming into the club would be reflected in their accounts.

So the answer is "Yes".

Mr. Fran Gavin

It would require someone from club licensing to answer that fully.

Surely somebody from the FAI knows the answer.

Mr. Donal Conway

It is business. If it is a properly constituted business, they would have to observe -----

They would have to do that and if they did not, there would be consequences. It is set out in the licensing agreement that there are consequences for a club if it does not adhere to the proper financial controls that are in place.

Was the €100,000 loan recorded in the monthly financial statements of the FAI?

Mr. Eddie Murray

Not separately, no.

Why was it not recorded?

Mr. Eddie Murray

Unfortunately, I am not able to answer that.

Is there anyone here who can answer my question on the loan of €100,000? I am not asking about the purpose of the loan or anything like that. I am asking why a loan of €100,000 was not included in the monthly financial-----

Mr. Donal Conway

Mr. O'Connell has only taken over the role. I will get answers on technical account questions for the Deputy.

How many of the FAI representatives here today are members of the board?

Mr. Donal Conway

I will revert to the Deputy. He knows who the members of the board are and I will revert with-----

Can any board member tell me why a loan of €100,000 was not included in the monthly financial accounts?

Mr. Donal Conway

I will establish that if I am given time. I will establish that for the Deputy.

How much time does Mr. Conway need?

Mr. Donal Conway

When I finish here this evening, I will get it sorted for the Deputy tomorrow.

As the honorary treasurer of the FAI, Mr. Murray-----

I am sorry to interrupt but just to be helpful to the Deputy, the letter of invite mentions that specific issue. The FAI witnesses, collectively, were aware of that question.

Mr. Murray is the honorary treasurer and Mr. O'Connell is the new financial officer. Is that correct?

Mr. Alex O'Connell


If this was to happen again in the morning, what would the consequences be?

Mr. Alex O'Connell

I only assumed my role two weeks ago. I was not actually in the association at the time so it is tough for me to speak on why it was not part of the management accounts, as the Deputy said. We are getting professional independent advice to help us build the processes that will allow us to ensure that it does not happen again.

As the new financial officer, has Mr. O'Connell asked that question? He has been in the job for the last two weeks and this is the most pressing and significant issue-----

Mr. Donal Conway

This impinges on processes that we have in play of which, of course, Mr. O'Connell is part, with Grant Thornton currently on site. Until there is an outcome from that, we should leave-----

Hold on. It is expressly stated in our letter of invite, at point 3, that we wished the FAI to proffer an explanation as to why particular credit facilities that were afforded to it were not disclosed as part of the financial statements for the relevant year. The question is very relevant and fair. It is a question about which the FAI was given notice.

Mr. Donal Conway

I am not disputing the relevance of the question. Is the Deputy specifically talking about the monthly statements to the board?

The Deputy asked was why it was not recorded in the following month's statement, assuming that we are talking about monthly accounting periods.

Does the FAI submit monthly financial accounts to Sport Ireland?

Mr. Donal Conway

No, we are not required to do so.

The FAI is not required to do that.

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy. I have no wish to stop him but-----

Can I come back in again later?

We are sticking to the rules agreed-----

Can come in again on the next round?

Yes, of course. I just want to get it right because the Deputy's question is very pertinent and important. I want to ensure that the order we agreed is followed and that members of the committee get to ask their questions in the second round. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien and others are more than welcome to contribute and will get an opportunity to do so after committee members. That is the rule that is always applied here. That does not the Deputy from asking questions at all.

I will not ask any more questions now. Can I have answers to the questions I have asked already?

Of course. That is perfectly reasonable.

Mr. Donal Conway

When are we taking a break?

We will be breaking at 4.15 p.m.

Mr. Donal Conway

I will try to get answers to the Deputy's questions during that break. I will try to establish some of the answers then.

We will take Mr. Conway at his word. We are starting the second round of questions now. Deputy Catherine Murphy is first.

Most of us wanted to ask questions of the former CEO in respect of his role but, clearly, that is not possible. Did Mr. Conway know that Mr. Delaney would be taking this approach today and issuing a separate statement?

Mr. Donal Conway

Yes, I knew that before the meeting today.

Before the meeting today but only then. Is that correct?

Mr. Donal Conway

No. I knew this as of yesterday.

Is Mr. Conway happy about it?

Mr. Donal Conway

I wanted to make sure that all persons invited were here.

Legal advice has been given. Was that legal advice for the FAI or was it exclusive to Mr. Delaney?

Mr. Donal Conway

It was exclusive to Mr. Delaney.

There was one big transaction that has been discussed in the media. We have talked about it for a long time today. Mr. Conway has been on the board of the FAI for a long time. Is he confident that no other financial issues arose in recent years that would be a cause of concern? Would he be totally confident in that regard? Why is Grant Thornton doing a trawl through the association's various ledgers and accounts? Would Mr. Conway be confident that there is nothing else-----

Mr. Donal Conway

As we have just heard from Mr. O'Connell, he has only recently moved into his role-----

I am asking about Mr. Conway.

Mr. Donal Conway

I am going to answer that. What confidence I have will be built around Mazars, Grant Thornton, the -----

No, I am asking Mr. Conway about up to now-----

Mr. Donal Conway

-----ODCE, our own internal review and all of the processes that we have put in place.

Mr. Conway is talking about the future but I am asking if he is confident that there was no other financial transaction in recent years that would cause him a problem.

Mr. Donal Conway

I have no reason to believe that the work we are doing is going to lead us to a situation-----

Mr. Conway is telling me that he is confident-----

Mr. Donal Conway

I am telling the Deputy that we have processes in play and perhaps-----

That is not the same thing.

Mr. Donal Conway

Were we doing things to the absolute top standard? Could we have better processes in play? We may very well be told that.

I am not asking about processes but about transactions. Will the Grant Thornton review be looking at possible loans, credit cards or anything like that? Will it be looking at the totality of the association's financial transactions?

Mr. Donal Conway

It is looking at how our finance department manages our finances. It is looking across financial transactions to see if we are doing things to the highest standard and whether we can do things better. Clearly, Grant Thornton was initially engaged by us to look at the bridging loan but I would like it to come back to the board with recommendations for the future.

How long more will Grant Thornton be in the FAI?

Mr. Donal Conway

I am not quite sure what length of time the process will take.

The FAI has made some recent changes to its rules in respect of the role of the honorary treasurer, as per page 13, rule 18.6. Prior to these changes, the treasurer was responsible for establishing an audit committee but now the board has that responsibility. The responsibility has been taken away from the treasurer and has been extended to the board as a whole. Why was that rule change made?

Mr. Donal Conway

Any of those actions or recent rule changes were part of our task of observing the governance code and best practice.

The FAI has taken the responsibility away from the treasurer exclusively and has given it to the board and the treasurer. As we heard earlier, the treasurer was not told of a major financial transaction.

I apologise for interrupting but somebody's phone is making noise.

It is not my phone.

It does not appear to have been spotted in the accounts either because it would have shown up. It came as a bolt out of the blue when it ended up in the public arena. Is that the case?

Mr. Eddie Murray


Is Mr. Murray not embarrassed by how he was treated as the treasurer? If I were the treasurer of an organisation and I had not been told even though I had primary responsibility on the board, I would be furious.

Mr. Eddie Murray

I found it unsatisfactory, to put it mildly. Needless to say, I should have been made aware of it.

Mr. Eddie Murray


This is an organisation with a turnover of €50 million which was teetering on the edge and required a large short-term loan just to keep going. Mr. Murray finds it unsatisfactory.

Mr. Eddie Murray

Yes, it is totally unsatisfactory.

Did any of Mr. Murray's fellow board members raise a concern about the finances around that time to suggest that the association was tight for money?

Mr. Eddie Murray

We receive monthly reports of accounts from our finance department which show the budgeted amount for that month under a particular heading. They show the actual spending-----

There must have been a large hole in the middle of the report, given that the association needed a loan.

Mr. Eddie Murray

In such an event, it would be included in the bulk figures for that particular month. A loan would not be differentiated from other income that came in under various headings and, as a result, would not be shown separately on the accounts.

It strikes me that the board is very passive. That is part of the reason the Genesis report indicated that there was a need to have independent people on the board to challenge it from time to time. The board must have been very passive if something like this went entirely unnoticed. Is that similar to Mr. Murray's experience with the board, or does the board challenge itself?

Mr. Eddie Murray

It is definitely a challenging board.

Why was the loan not challenged?

Mr. Eddie Murray

We were not made aware of its existence at that time. We would be unable to challenge something that-----

Some €100,000 found its way into the account but it was not noticed. Nobody told Mr. Murray, yet he stated it is a challenging board. It does not appear as though it is.

Mr. Eddie Murray

Our turnover is approximately €50 million per year. The loan, therefore, was a small sum relative to the annual or even monthly turnover, given that there is a turnover of approximately €4.5 million per month. The figure of €100,000 would not stick out from that, as long as the figures were balanced against the budgeted figures. That is what we factor into our consideration.

I turn to the appointment made arising from the Jonathan Hall Associates report. Under the association's rules, it has a council, which is the supreme body and which holds AGMs. Was the council consulted about the change in governance and the splitting of the role of the CEO?

Mr. Donal Conway

It was an operational matter, an employment matter, and the board was entitled to put that into place.

It is a little more than that. It is a significant rule. It is stated on page 11 of the report that the council may fill any casual vacancy, as well as the offices of president, vice-president, honorary secretary, honorary treasurer and auditors, in accordance with the rules. It states the council elects the vice-president but does not state it elects the executive vice-president. It indicates there will be a splitting of the CEO's responsibilities but does not define what they will be. While there is an outline, it is not defined. If this organisation is a members' association, as we were told, its members seem to be largely excluded.

Mr. Donal Conway

I do not see it that way. The Deputy referred to the CEO role and the new role of executive vice-president. We have taken on board the recommendations of the Jonathan Hall Associates report but the fine details about their implementation, contracts and so on have yet to be signed off on.

Will the association's members have any role in that regard?

Mr. Donal Conway

We did not have to revert to our council on the issue.

On page 2 of the accounts for each of the years 2016 to 2018, the College Green branch of Bank of Ireland is listed as the bank which is used. How did the overdraft facility change? Mr. Murray stated the association had changed bank and that was the reason for the reduced overdraft facility.

Mr. Eddie Murray

We changed banks approximately three years ago. One of the reasons we did so was to enable us to negotiate on the number of overdrafts we required in one year.

Perhaps Mr. O'Connell can shed some light on the matter. To return to my earlier question, in 2015, the association had an overdraft facility of at least €1.9 million. Although we are not sure of the limit, we know from the accounts that there was a facility of €1.9 million. Bank of Ireland is listed as the banking partner in those accounts. In the subsequent years, namely, 2016 to 2018, inclusive, the College Green branch of Bank of Ireland remains listed as the banking partner. How does Mr. O'Connell account for that?

Mr. Alex O'Connell

It is difficult for me to comment on 2015 and 2016 purely because I was not there at the time. I will try my best but I am not sure.

Mr. Donal Conway

I answered technical questions about accounts which one of the Deputy's colleagues asked. We will make a note of the Deputy's questions and try to furnish him with answers after the next break.

I would appreciate that. It would be great if it happened as soon as possible. On the Jonathan Hall Associates report, some of my questions may have been asked but our guests might indulge me in that regard. Early March appears repeatedly in the report and Mr. Conway mentioned that the report was commissioned in early March. On which date in early March was it commissioned? Was it before or after the query about the loan was received from The Sunday Times?

Mr. Donal Conway

It may have been after the first inquiry from The Sunday Times?

Will Mr. Conway confirm that?

Mr. Donal Conway

Discussions about the matter were held in February, while discussions among the then CEO and various members had occurred over many months before that.

Are those sorts of discussions routine? Would there often be discussions that do not result in the commissioning of a report?

Mr. Donal Conway

No, these were discussions on how best to approach the evolving situation. We were approached to join the 2030 World Cup bid, for example. We met the Irish Football Association and agreed that we would jointly bid for the 2023 under-21 European Championship.

There are various other international examples. I appreciate that substantial work is being done.

Mr. Donal Conway

Some months ago, I travelled to Belfast with the then CEO and other members of the board. On the journey, we discussed how we would love to secure the 2023 under-21 football championship and whether the then CEO would be able to manage that, the World Cup bid and a whole range of other matters I have outlined. That started the discussion among other members of the board who are present. They equally will be able to assert that we had such a discussion about whether we were best deploying our resources in the new, evolving situation.

I understand that and Mr. Conway has explained that the FAI and Mr. Delaney, especially in his new role, are working on significant international projects. That is fair enough.

I am conscious of the time and, therefore, I ask for answers to be kept as brief as possible. On the report and its mechanics, was more than one draft presented to the board, or was the first draft that was presented accepted?

Mr. Donal Conway

The first draft was just as the Deputy has described, that is, it was a draft.

This document was a draft.

Mr. Donal Conway

Some of it was then written properly. Any changes after the first draft were pretty insignificant. All board members got it. They were all interviewed in the course of the compilation of the report, as were our senior executives. People wanted to feed back commentary.

I have read the report.

Mr. Donal Conway

The recommendations in the report did not fundamentally change.

Deputy Rock has one minute remaining.

Was the report agreed by the board on the date envisioned in the document, that is, 22 March? It was a Friday.

Mr. Donal Conway

Yes, I think the Deputy is correct. There was a board meeting and it was agreed at that.

Was the board meeting held by telephone or in person?

Mr. Donal Conway

We had a board meeting by telephone and at the next meeting, about half the board were present, while the other half was on conference call.

I have to move on to Senator O'Mahony.

I have one final question. When was the PDF of the full report, which the FAI sent us, received? I refer to the same document that was presented to the board and accepted.

Mr. Donal Conway

I think so.

It is interesting because the data on the document are from the next day. It states that the document was created at 5.10 p.m. on the following day, the Saturday, during the match between Ireland and Gibraltar. This all seems quite peculiar and warrants a further line of questioning with regard to the creation of the report. However, I will pass over to Senator O'Mahony.

The Chairman and Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked why the €100,000 was not disclosed in the monthly financial accounts. Mr. Conway stated that he would get the answers and circulate them to all committee members. He said Mr. O'Connell has only been in the post for two weeks and I understand that he would not have had full knowledge of the issue. Earlier in the day, I asked about the turnover of staff and Mr. Conway said there had been four financial directors over the past six years.

Mr. Donal Conway

It was over 15 years.

Would the previous financial director have the information that has been requested?

Mr. Donal Conway

I am conscious of talking about a former member of staff.

Mr. Conway said Mr. O'Connell would not have it but if that is the case, his predecessor would have it.

Mr. Donal Conway

His predecessor was across it.

Has Mr. O'Connell had any discussions with the previous financial director since he took up his post? Does he intend to have any discussions with him to find out the answers to some of these questions?

Mr. Donal Conway

We have reviews in place. Mr. O'Connell has only been in place for a couple of weeks and he came here as an observer.

He is a witness today and he consented to that.

Mr. Donal Conway

Our former finance director will engage with the reviews that are in play currently.

Is Mr. Conway saying Mr. O'Connell is not allowed to answer questions?

Mr. Donal Conway

I am not saying that.

I wish to clarify this issue for the sake of certainty and due process. The FAI brought Mr. O'Connell here and is happy for him to answer questions which he is capable of answering, taking into account the amount of time he has been with the organisation. There is no issue and there will be no badgering of any witness here whatsoever. The question to which Senator O'Mahony wants an answer is the one he asked.

Mr. Alex O'Connell

We performed a handover of responsibilities and most of it was future based. As regards current-based responsibilities, we have not gone too far over retrospective items. I echo what the president said. My predecessor will be engaged with the review and it is my intention to understand more so that I can ensure this situation does not arise again.

Mr. O'Connell is saying the information will become available. That is all I want.

Mr. Alex O'Connell

I thank the Senator.

A former officer would not have anything that the FAI would not be able to get for reference. Is that correct? Notwithstanding the fact that he is no longer part of the corporate entity, the work he did will be available to the organisation now. In other words, our guests will be in a position to answer any questions members have, even if not today.

Mr. Donal Conway

The former employee will be engaged across all the reviews that are in play.

Deputy Troy has ten minutes.

In his opening address, Mr. Conway stated that he knew the FAI had much work to do to rebuild trust and confidence in the association and that the board was committed to achieving this. This is their opportunity to start that process. Even if they have no time for members gathered today, they can speak to their patrons who are watching in, with huge interest in what is going on here. However, since this morning, they have been evasive, vague, non-committal and ambiguous in their replies. They have chosen to answer what they wish to answer. For example, there was a question on the severance package which Mr. Conway chose to answer because it suited him to do so. When I asked about a pension, however, he slapped the question down and stated that he was not in a position to answer because of the contractual arrangement involved. He was hiding behind the Grant Thornton and the Mazars reports. Can he be honest and upfront with the general public, who have a right to know about corporate governance in the FAI?

Mr. Donal Conway

I did not set out to show any disrespect to anybody here. I did not come here with the attitude that I do not care what members of this committee think, and nor did my colleagues. What we can and cannot answer will be guided by the advice we have been given. We all know there are areas into which we cannot stray. If there is a question about contracts, employees, something that is commercially sensitive or an individual creditor, I have no option of answering the question, even if the Deputy calls this being evasive.

In November 2004, the State suspended funding to the FAI. Up until last week, five of the 11 board members were also members of the board at that time. The board should be acutely aware of the responsibilities of board members. Seven of the current board members have 103 years' service in total. The perception outside here is that the board is a cartel and that it is closing ranks and is not being honest and open with the public. On page 14 of his statement, Mr. Conway indicates that the new CEO would not be part of the board, in line with best practice. If it is best practice for the new CEO not to be a board member, why was it not best practice for the old CEO?

Mr. Donal Conway

The Genesis report was published in 2002. We adopted many of its recommendations and set about speaking to the members of the wider football family in respect of their implementation. We changed the board from 23 members to ten and we changed our standing committees. At that stage, we felt that the former CEO had been a key part in moving the Genesis report. As the former CEO outlined, I was part of the team that went around on a consultation exercise to ensure the implementation of the Genesis report. At that time, we felt that it served us best to have the CEO as a member of the board.

Does Mr. Conway not understand that a CEO of any organisation, irrespective of who he or she is, must be held to account? If the board reports to the CEO, how can it hold the CEO to account, given that the CEO is at the same level as the other members of the board?

Mr. Donal Conway

It is still the responsibility of the board to manage the CEO. As the Deputy rightly said, the CEO reports to the board. That is how it was.

That view of corporate governance is different now and we are heeding that. The advice we were given was that the acting CEO, the incoming CEO and the executive vice president, who is the former CEO, should not be members of the board.

When did that change in corporate governance occur?

Mr. Donal Conway

Our governance review of senior executives only took place recently and the advice we got was that those two senior executive roles would not be part of the board.

I turn to a statement that was made in January 2017 when this committee held hearings on governance. We were told: "The FAI has a governance group, chaired by a woman and an outside person to look constantly at governance within the organisation." Does Mr. Conway think that governance was constantly under review, and that best corporate governance has always been practised during his time both as a board member and, more specifically, as chairman of the board?

Mr. Donal Conway

My time as chairman of the board has been a matter of months. In respect of corporate governance, we are talking about a sporting organisation that is a members' organisation, as members rightly noted. Following the Genesis report, we evolved with board members coming through the grassroots. We have very much a representative model. Different parts of the game felt they needed representation on each of our key committees. That was how it evolved.

On how I came to the board, every two years, I had to go for election to the key particular committee of which I was chair. I had first to be nominated to that committee by my affiliate and thereafter the 12 members of the committee had to agree on me as chairperson, which is what brought me to the board. That was the model of governance in place. When we undertake our review, we will examine whether that is appropriate for the FAI going forward.

Reviews were carried out in the past. Mr. Conway has been a board member for a considerable period, yet there do not seem to have been improvements in corporate governance. If there had been, he would not be before the committee today. Does he accept that?

Mr. Donal Conway

As I stated, our board has a number of directors who have served for a considerable number of years-----

Mr. Donal Conway

Four of the ten members joined in the past three to four years. The most recent change was when we fully integrated women's football and set up, as a key committee, the women's football committee-----

In fairness, that is not the question I asked. I know the make-up of the board.

Mr. Donal Conway

The chair of that committee joined the board in 2017. The Deputy asked about significant changes to the board. That is the most recent significant change. Women's football having been integrated, the chair of that committee, Niamh O'Donoghue, joined the board.

Is Mr. Conway, as a board member since 2005, happy that proper corporate governance has been practised throughout his time on the board?

Mr. Donal Conway

I am happy with the work of the board during my time as a member. The board and the association have achieved a great deal-----

That is not the question I asked.

Mr. Donal Conway

-----over the time I have been on the board. As the Deputy will be aware, the governance code is of relatively recent origin. I do not say corporate governance was invented only two years ago but the new governance code is of relatively recent origin. We will be fully observant of that code. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and Sport Ireland have reacted positively to the changes we made at an extraordinary general meeting in 2018.

Most people would acknowledge that the code of corporate governance that Sport Ireland laid down for implementation in 2021 is intended for voluntary organisations, such as a local boxing or athletics club. The FAI, however, is a professional body. It employs professional people and has a turnover of €50 million per annum. It is not a local voluntary organisation. As a consequence, it has responsibility under company law to carry out corporate governance. Does Mr. Conway not accept that?

Mr. Donal Conway

My understanding was that code applied to organisations such as the FAI. We will comply with that and we have begun taking steps to do so. By the time we are due to be fully compliant with it, we will be. By that stage, however, I hope that we may have moved further on the composition of the board and on broader aspects of corporate governance.

I turn to the suspension of funding by Sport Ireland. Another sporting organisation, the then Olympic Council of Ireland, has previously appeared before this committee. At that time, Sport Ireland suspended its funding and did not restore it until there was a change of personnel and the configuration of the board. If that is a requirement, will Mr. Conway and his fellow board members stand down to protect important activities, including participation in school football and education, that is, what Sport Ireland's funding is spent on?

Mr. Donal Conway

Before I answer that question, I stress that the areas the Deputy mentioned, namely, underage or school football and so on, are where I have invested my life working as a volunteer. That is where I have invested 35 or 40 years as a volunteer. A number of processes are ongoing and we will not disregard their outcomes.

I asked a direct question and I would appreciate a direct answer. Mr. Conway stated he does not want to be evasive or non-committal. I asked a very direct, "Yes" or "No" question.

Mr. Donal Conway

Could the Deputy repeat the question?

If Sport Ireland indicates that in order for funding to be restored, the board will have to step down and allow a new board to be appointed, will the board heed that?

Mr. Donal Conway

We will not jeopardise Sport Ireland funding. We will take whatever actions we have to take.

We know from earlier today that at least three members of the board knew about the loan, yet the board, as a body, was allowed to sign off on the accounts. Why did the FAI allow that to happen?

Mr. Donal Conway

Those board members were unaware of the bridging loan.

According to Mr. Delaney's opening statement, three board members had been made aware of the situation.

Mr. Donal Conway

There was an understanding that there was no reporting requirement. There may have been no note needed for the auditors. I presume, therefore, that is why they would sign off on the accounts.

Sorry, I am confused. What does Mr. Conway mean when he says there was no reporting requirement? On what basis was that, because we have just heard about the monthly-----

Mr. Donal Conway

I stating that must have been their understanding.

Whose understanding must that have been?

Mr. Donal Conway

The three members to whom Deputy Munster referred.

Mr. Conway is presuming it must have been their understanding. Where did that understanding come from? Who told them there was no requirement?

Mr. Donal Conway

I cannot answer that.

Why can Mr. Conway not answer that question?

Mr. Donal Conway

As Deputy Munster knows, I was not aware of the transaction. I, like my colleagues-----

Now, come on. Surely, between then and now-----

Deputy Munster asked the question. She can come back in once Mr. Conway answers the question. Let Mr. Conway answer the question.

Does Mr. Conway want to answer the question?

Mr. Donal Conway

Will Deputy Munster please repeat the question?

Surely, between then and now, Mr. Conway asked the question? Is he seriously suggesting that he just moved on and did not bother asking the question?

Mr. Donal Conway

That particular loan is the subject of an investigation and I am involved in that investigation. We gave an explanation today and I am going to continue with the processes that are in play.

Mr. Conway does know but he is just not saying. Is that correct?

Mr. Donal Conway

What is it I know?

Does Mr. Conway know who had stated that it was not a requirement to notify?

Mr. Donal Conway

I was asked how did the three individuals who were aware of the loan sign off on the accounts. I can only presume that those-----

I was referring to why the board was allowed, given that at least three members of the board knew about the loan.

Mr. Donal Conway

I can only presume that they felt that everything that should have been done was done.

How wrong they were. Who benefitted from the loan not showing up in the accounts?

Mr. Donal Conway

The consideration was to deal with a short-term cash flow issue and not to calculate who benefitted. It meant that if a demand came from a particular creditor or creditors it could be met.

If that is accepted as fact, it still does not explain why there was no paper trail. If it was as straightforward as that, why was there no paper trail?

Mr. Donal Conway

There was a lodgement to an account. There was a repayment at a later stage. It would appear that the finance department and finance staff felt that all that needed to be done was done at the time. As Deputy Munster knows, I was not aware of the transaction at the time.

Yes, indeed. When that lodgement was made to the account, was it made in the name of John Delaney and did it state the purpose of the lodgement?

Mr. Donal Conway

The lodgement went into one of our bank accounts and it was used to help execute a payment later.

I know that. My specific question was different. When the lodgement was made to the account, did it go in under John Delaney's name, as coming from John Delaney, and did it state the purpose of the lodgement?

Mr. Donal Conway

It was a personal cheque from John Delaney, so it went in as a personal cheque from John Delaney.

Did it state the purpose of the lodgement?

Deputy Munster is asking what was on the lodgement slip.

What was in the accounts?

Mr. Donal Conway

I will have to ask a colleague in the finance department what was that precise detail.

That is fine. Does Mr. Conway think there was a breach of the Companies Act 2014, which I referred to this morning, in the 2017 accounts?

Mr. Donal Conway

That will be established for us. We are engaged with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, ODCE, on that matter. I do not want to do anything to threaten the integrity of that engagement.

Can I ask then-----

Mr. Donal Conway

I have no further comment on that matter.

What was wrong with the accounts that caused the FAI to write to the ODCE?

Mr. Donal Conway

I do not want to answer any questions on our ongoing work with the ODCE.

Is Mr. Conway confident that should the ODCE carry out a forensic audit, as opposed to a normal audit-----

We have to be careful regarding the statutory duty of the ODCE. I just want to say that and I am not trying to-----

I am just asking from the point of view of-----