The former chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has insisted he acted in the best interests of the game when he loaned the organisation 100,000 euro.
The FAI has been in the eye of a political storm since it emerged that ex-CEO John Delaney provided it with a bridging loan in April, 2017 to prevent it exceeding its 1.5 million euro bank overdraft.
The controversial payment, which has raised questions about the FAI’s finance and governance arrangements, that was not flagged to Sport Ireland, the state body that oversees the public funding of sporting organisations in the country.
Sport Ireland has temporary withheld further funding to the FAI pending an auditors’ probe.
In a highly-anticipated appearance before a parliamentary committee in Dublin, Mr Delaney made clear he received no interest for the loan.
“I did not receive any interest payment and I would never have expected it, I was only acting to assist the FAI and the benefit of Irish football,” he added.
Mr Delaney left his role as chief executive last month in the wake of the loan furore, taking on the newly-created FAI job of executive vice president.
He told members of Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport: “I accept that the overdraft limit issue arose on my watch as chief executive officer, I wish that it had not happened, but I acted in the best interests of the association.
“We have an excellent and committed finance and administration team and body of employees at the FAI and many voluntary workers and players at all levels throughout the country.
“I am, as most of you know, passionate about football and have always been.
“I regret the embarrassment that this entire issue has caused to them and the association, but I did it in the best interest of football.”
Explaining why he had initiated court proceeding in a bid to prevent the Sunday Times revealing the loan payment last month, Mr Delaney said it was because “I believed at the time that this information emanated from documentation which had been filed in the family courts”.
He said he could not make any further comments on the payment, his role as CEO or the finance arrangements at the FAI, due to legal advice.
“In the interests of fair procedures and natural justice, while I have made this statement to the Committee and have attended this meeting voluntarily as I have attended many Oireachtas committees in the past, I am not in a position to answer any such questions here at this time,” he said.
He referenced a recent ruling by Ireland’s Supreme Court that found that another Irish parliamentary committee acted outside of its terms of reference in its questioning of Angela Kerins, a former CEO of the Rehab rehabilitation organisation.
“Given that some members of this Committee have made highly prejudicial public pronouncements about me personally prior to my attendance here today and in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Kerins case, I would ask that the Committee respects this position,” he added.
Auditors Grant Thornton have been called in by the FAI to review its accounting records.
Mr Delaney said he was “truly saddened” that Sport Ireland, which provides annual funding of 2.9 million euro to the FAI, had temporarily withdrawn that support, insisting he wanted to see a “speedy response” to the concerns raised.
The former chief executive was accompanied by other senior FAI officials at Wednesday’s hearing.
At the start of proceedings, the FAI president said the organisation had much work to do to rebuild trust and confidence.
Donal Conway moved to address the controversies surrounding the organisation’s financial and governance arrangements.
“I know we have much work to do to rebuild trust and confidence in the Association, and we are committed to achieving this as a board,” he said.
In his opening statement, the contents of which were already in the public domain before his appearance, Mr Conway told politicians Mr Delaney’s new role would “benefit Irish football”.
“John Delaney has been appointed executive vice president, in order to effectively utilise his skills and connections at UEFA and FIFA level,” he said.
Mr Conway highlighted that the finances of a sporting organisation are difficult to forecast.
“The qualification stage process of football is unique,” he said.
“Financial fluctuations are the norm and cashflow is often irregular. The disappointment of the failure of the men’s senior team to qualify for World Cup 2018 had a major impact on match attendance and, subsequently, cashflow.”
He added: “I want to make clear how seriously we take the issues that have emerged in recent weeks.
“The sub-committee of the (FAI) Board has been working every day since its establishment on March 26 to plan a way forward, ensure transparency and promote greater trust in our organisation.
“There has been much work done in recent years to create a more financially sustainable organisation. Cash flow management is at the forefront of our financial planning.”
Concluding his public statement, Mr Conway said: “Despite our great success on the pitch, and in communities around Ireland, the past few weeks have undoubtedly been a difficult time for Irish football and the FAI.
“We are determined as a board, and I am determined as president, that our sole focus shall once again be to promote football in this country.
“I hope the processes that we are putting in place in the short term, and the long term processes around governance and reform, will help to restore your faith in the Football Association of Ireland.”