FAI delegates to seek answers on day of meetings as legal bill heads for €1m

FAI delegates will today seek clarity on the cost of recent turmoil amid fears the association’s legal bill will soon pass the €1m mark.

Two representatives from Fifa will visit Abbotstown on a busy day of activity which will include a board meeting, an FAI council session and a gathering of the association’s finance committee.

Fiscal matters are set to be high on the agenda, with concern growing about the expense of ongoing reviews and legal costs. The FAI was back in the High Court yesterday, where proceedings initiated by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) were adjourned for six weeks.

The corporate watchdog has been investigating matters related to the football association’s finances following revelations then chief executive John Delaney gave it a €100,000 “bridging loan” in 2017.

The transaction was not disclosed in the FAI’s accounts or notified to Sport Ireland.

As part of the process, the ODCE has requested a range of documents from the FAI, including the minutes of board and committee meetings.

However, the FAI has claimed some of the documentation contains privileged legal advice from Rea Walshe, a solicitor who held a number of roles at the association prior to becoming interim chief executive in March.

The ODCE wants the court to determine whether privilege applies. The court heard yesterday the FAI is providing more information of a non-privileged nature to the ODCE which may help resolve some of the issues between both sides.

Personnel from A&L Goodbody, the FAI’s solicitors, have been a familiar presence at Abbotstown in recent weeks.

Sources have indicated that the current legal bill is a high six-figure sum and it is expected to rise.

FAI officials acknowledge the bill will be substantial.

While the expense comes in exceptional circumstances which could lead to longer-term reforms, in the short term it will raise concerns about the association’s already strained resources. The Fifa governance experts will be given a rundown on the FAI’s situation and will also be briefed on the work of a governance review group that is looking to establish the framework for a new board and voting structure. Fifa’s officials will also meet representatives of Sport Ireland today.

Council representative Dave Moran will today push for Paul Cooke – the sole candidate for the vacant position of honorary treasurer – to be brought on to the board straight away rather than waiting for the association’s AGM in July.

The FAI are also expected to outline their own plans to deal with the challenges presented by the dramatic fallout from the emergence of ex-CEO John Delaney’s bridging loan to the Association in 2017.

UEFA are playing an active role in terms of helping the FAI hierarchy and there is momentum behind a plan where European football’s governing body sends staff to Ireland to ease the burden.

There is strong speculation within football circles that former League of Ireland goalkeeper Noel Mooney, the Head of National Associations Business Development with UEFA, will be working with the FAI for the foreseeable future.

The FAI are currently being led by interim CEO Rea Walshe in tandem with President Donal Conway and the remaining eight members of the board after the departures of Delaney – who is currently sidelined from his role of Executive Vice President – Honorary Treasurer Eddie Murray and Honorary Secretary Michael Cody.

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