Minister for Sport confirms €6.8m in state funding to FAI has been suspended

Minister for Sport confirms €6.8m in state funding to FAI has been suspended

Minister for Sport Thomas Byrne has confirmed that €6.8m of state funding to the FAI has been suspended while the Association remains under scrutiny for its adherence to its Memorandum of Understanding with the government.

Byrne said today that a €500,000 award for women’s football in response to World Cup qualification had been affected by the controversy.

The government has withheld the money after it emerged that the pay package of CEO Jonathan Hill did not comply with the terms of the bailout deal in 2020.

Hill apologised to staff last week, admitting that the episode had damaged attempts to rebuild trust in the Association.

The CEO was paid for holidays that he didn’t take – the FAI staff handbook prevents this – and there was also an issue around benefit in kind payments related to his commuting expenses from London. A figure in the region of €20,000 was repaid.

Separately, the FAI are also risking a fallout with the government by failing to resolve the issue of gender balance on the board.

Byrne has previously said funding will be cut to 50pc of the current levels if this isn’t sorted out; a recent proposal at an EGM to address this by increasing the board size was voted down by sections of the football community who were opposed to the number of independent directors rising in tandem with the expansion.

Byrne has said that the ratio of independent to football elected directors must remain at 50:50

“At the moment there’s a sum of €6.8 million outstanding to the FAI from Sport Ireland,” said Byrne, before referencing ‘a special allocation this year of €500,000 for women in sport funding, in response to Ireland qualifying for their first-ever Women’s World Cup.’

He said that the FAI are anxious to resolve the matter and are making moves to that effect.

“We want to get that money to the FAI as soon as possible,” he said.

“Sport Ireland paused that money, in order that KOSI could conduct an audit to consider whether an MOU condition regarding CEO remuneration was embedded in the organisation in 2022.

“I have spoken about this before, last week I met members of Sport Ireland to discuss the FAI’s response to the KOSI audit and I want to acknowledge the FAI have signalled their intention to implement what is set out in the audit.

“And to be fair to the FAI, they have implemented almost everything in the Memorandum of Understanding. It’s been about 95% [compliance] and that is really important.

“We are just working through things in the department in terms of the FAI’s response, but it is certainly my intention to finalise this matter relatively soon.

“Myself and Minister (Catherine) Martin just have to consider all of the issues that have been brought before us by Sport Ireland and the FAI’s response.

“But I hope and I am expecting a positive outcome to this soon. It is important to remember the FAI is getting double the funding it would ordinarily get because of the MOU, and in addition, up to last year, we were essentially paying the rent or the payment that’s due on the Aviva. That is not continuing.

“We want to make sure the FAI can go on their own two feet. It’s quite likely there will be a continuation of the MOU past next year if the FAI wish and want it, we can certainly enter into discussion on that once this particular issue is resolved.”

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