April 16, 2019 / 1:15 PM / 6 days ago

Irish FA's board to step down over loan scandal - minister

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The entire board of Irish soccer’s governing body has decided to step down by July in the wake of a furore over an undisclosed 100,000 euro (£86,371) loan, Transport Minister Shane Ross said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Chief Executive of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) John Delaney (R) at Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - November 15, 2018 REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) acknowledged last week it had broken state funding rules by failing to tell authorities about the short-term loan made by its former chief executive, John Delaney, in 2017.

In a filing to Ireland’s Companies Registration Office published on Tuesday, the FAI’s auditors Deloitte also said the 98-year old association’s accounts were not being properly kept, contravening two sections of Irish company law.

“It is clearly time for a regime change,” Ross said as he announced details of the planned mass resignation. The Association had set out the plans in a letter to the government, he added.

“Given the ever growing lack of public confidence in the FAI, this move is to be welcomed and is hopefully the first step on the road to rebuilding trust in this important national governing body,” Ross told a parliamentary committee.

Sport Ireland, the government’s sport coordination body, suspended all state funding to the Association last week, saying the body had failed to tell it about the financial troubles the loan was meant to ease.

The FAI said it needed the cash to relieve cash-flow issues and avoid breaking its 1.5 million euro overdraft limit. It said it paid back the loan two months later.

ANGER AND CONCERN

Sport Ireland Chairman Kieran Mulvey told the committee that the terms of reference audit firm Mazars was preparing into an “extensive investigation” into FAI would also include board expenses and payments to third parties.

The Sunday Times newspaper, which first reported details of the loan, reported on Sunday that Delaney spent almost 40,000 euros on his work credit card in the space of six months shortly before he had to personally bail out the association.

Citing credit card statements, it said the charges included duty-free purchases, meals in Delaney’s local pub and cash withdrawals of more than 6,000 euros. The FAI and Delaney’s solicitor did not respond to questions from Reuters over whether the alleged use of the credit card contravened its rules.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who criticised Delaney for refusing to answer questions about the loan at a parliamentary committee last week, said on Tuesday the government shared the concern of taxpayers and anger of fans at how the FAI has been run and more investigations were needed.

Delaney, who was moved to a newly-created role of executive vice-president after it was first reported last month that he provided the FAI with the loan, offered on Monday to leave the governing body pending investigation.

Two other long-standing members of the 11-person board also resigned on Monday.

As a result of Deloitte’s filing, the Companies Registration Office is now required to inform Ireland’s corporate watchdog of the FAI’s failure to keep adequate accounting records. The watchdog has already asked the FAI to explain the 2017 loan.

“The form that was filed is extremely rare,” said Professor Niamh Brennan, head of University College Dublin’s Centre for Corporate Governance.

“Normally when issues of adequate accounting records come up, it’s when a company has gone into liquidation and the liquidator goes in and finds things are in a mess. As far as a directors is concerned, it does not get more serious than that in my opinion.”

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by John Stonestreet/Andrew Heavens and Christian Radnedge

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