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.