Minister for Sport Thomas Byrne has said that he commissioned a Sport Ireland report into the FAI’s compliance with the terms of their bailout deal with the Government in 2020 because he recognised issues arising from payments to CEO Jonathan Hill would be a “matter of considerable public controversy”.
Byrne was speaking in the Seanad today in response to questions from his Fianna Fáil colleague, Senator Shane Cassells, who brought questions to the floor on how the latest stories around FAI governance might affect future funding plans.
Cassells raised his concern that the FAI are looking for €500m from the Government for their infrastructure plan while doubts hang over their adherence to the Memorandum of Understanding.
Shane Cassells and his daughter
The Meath senator revealed that the FAI had pulled out of a planned appearance in front of the Oireachtas Committee for Sport next week, which was related to their infrastructure plan. “Surprisingly, they have decided they’re not coming next week – they can’t – maybe we would have been discussing something else,” he said.
“It’s important, given the amount of money that is being sought by this sports organisation, which does immense good work for so many people across the country, that if they are coming for half a billion in Government supports, that the checks and balances that we sought following the last controversy four years ago are put to bed and we do have confidence that taxpayer’s money going into this sport can be properly used.”
In his response, Byrne made it clear that the Government are not willing to bend on the terms and conditions they have laid down for the FAI.
Byrne asserted today that any increase in the size of the board must be accompanied by the 50-50 split being retained – and he warned that funding for football projects will be cut by 50pc for 2024 unless this issue is resolved.
“Any decisions with regard to amending or extending the MoU or the provision of additional funding for 2024 and future years, similar to that provided under the current MoU, that cannot be progressed in the absence of confirmation from the FAI and verification by Sport Ireland that the above recommendations are implemented,” said Byrne.
“I note the vote taken by the FAI and understand there’s still time for them to take the appropriate steps to ensure they’ve met the target.