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 in July in the wake of a furore over an undisclosed 100,000 euro (£86,371) loan, Transport Minister Shane Ross said on Tuesday.

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 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.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who criticised former FAI chief executive John 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 an 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 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.”