We have all been taken aback by the ongoing corporate governance and financial issues within the Football Association of Ireland, FAI. I strongly believe now is the time to set the course right, set the record straight, and commence a truly independent examination of management and finances which further State funding will be contingent upon. That means investigating everything from top to bottom, including lease deals, associated companies, boardroom expenses, etc. It is clear that corporate governance within the FAI is shambolic.
Six weeks ago, Jonathan Hall Associates was appointed to provide a report on senior management structures and the role of chief executive officer, CEO, as the FAI plans for the launch of a new strategic report. No terms of reference have been published to date and, indeed, the FAI has not even responded to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport's request for that report. Incredibly, within six weeks, that report has been produced in its entirety, with no redrafting required and its contents acted upon, via a unanimous vote of the board, culminating in the announcement of a brand new position for John Delaney. This absolutely stinks.
I met an expert in sporting governance who is currently undertaking such a review within a sporting body in another jurisdiction. That review is coming to a conclusion. It took a year. How could this review take only six weeks? Why did the FAI act on it so quickly? Why can the FAI not supply us with this report, given that is has unanimously acted on an element of it? Does the Minister believe this is good corporate governance? Does he believe that taxpayer's money is being deployed effectively? Does he not believe that now is the time for an independent examination into FAI corporate governance and finances? It is time we examined where taxpayer's money is going, as there are clear omissions in the information being given.
On finance, I have spoken with current and former employees of the FAI and am disturbed by what I hear and the documents I saw. While the committee continues working with these sources and readying itself to ask questions about what has previously happened within the FAI at its meeting on 10 April 2019, we need to act now to safeguard taxpayers' money in the future by taking this course of action. If the FAI will not clean up its house, we should at least work to protect the taxpayer.
In the Minister's recent response to a parliamentary question I put to him, he said:
There is no requirement for the organisation mentioned by the Deputy to submit its financial statements to my Department. In line with the terms and conditions of grant funding provided to it by Sport Ireland, the organisation is required to submit a copy of its financial statements to Sport Ireland.
This is a straight question. Is it time to change that requirement?
We see in the public domain today, once again, that for 2019 the FAI requested an early draw down of State funding from Sport Ireland. This is not the first time it has happened and no explanations have been forthcoming. We also saw the revelation of an undeclared director's loan by Mark Tighe in The Sunday Times. The question has to be asked as to why this was necessary. Is it the only time it happened? Why was it not declared? Has the Minister spoken to Sport Ireland on these important matters? Does he have any concerns with regard to the undeclared director's loan? Does he not agree that further taxpayer funding should be contingent on an independent examiner and an independent examination?
The original issue which thrust this story into the public domain was one of borrowed money, but it is quite clear that the board of the FAI is now only existing on borrowed time. These are important questions, they deserve an answer and they deserve a public answer.