By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN (Reuters) – Former Football Association of Ireland (FAI) boss John Delaney offered on Monday to leave the governing body completely, the FAI said, amid criticism from fans, players and politicians over the association’s corporate governance practices.
Delaney, who was moved to a newly-created role of executive vice-president just 24 days ago after it was first reported he provided the FAI with a 100,000 euro ($113,010) loan in 2017, faced criticism, including from Ireland’s prime minister, for refusing to answer questions about the funds in front of a parliamentary committee.
The short-term loan, which the FAI said it needed to relieve cash-flow issues in 2017 and avoid breaking its 1.5 million euro overdraft limit, has been a major news story in Ireland and led to investigations into the association’s finances and corporate governance, as well as calls for sweeping board changes.
The FAI’s state funding was suspended last week as the failure to disclose the deterioration in its finance at the time contravened grant approval rules.
“John Delaney has offered to voluntarily step aside from carrying out his role as Executive Vice-President with immediate effect pending the completion of an independent investigation by the association into issues of concern to the board,” the FAI said in a statement.
Two other long-standing members of the 11-person board — Honorary Secretary Michael Cody and Honorary Treasurer Eddie Murray – also voluntarily resigned on Monday.
Delaney did not answer questions from reporters as he left a meeting with the board on Monday.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Friday that he did not think anyone would be satisfied by Delaney’s appearance at the committee, where, aside from reading an opening statement, he remained silent through most of the five-hour hearing.
Delaney told the committee he offered the loan as the FAI potentially only had a few hours to resolve its cash-flow issues and that he recalled asking the association’s then finance director if any disclosure obligations arose from it.
Following the meeting, two of the FAI’s main sponsors, sportswear manufacturer New Balance and mobile phone operator Three, called on the FAI to quickly implement recommendations from reports it has commissioned into its corporate governance.
Groups representing supporters and players also demanded that Delaney, who is a member of European soccer body UEFA’s executive committee, leave the association he took charge of in 2004.
Lawmakers were told last week that only three members of the FAI’s board were made aware of the loan in April 2017 and FAI chairman Donal Conway said the association would handle cash flow issues differently if they occurred again.
The Sunday Times newspaper, which first reported details of the loan, reported on Sunday that Delaney spent almost 40,000 euros on his work credit card in the space of six months shortly before he had to personally bail out the association.
Citing credit card statements, the newspaper said the charges included duty-free purchases, meals in Delaney’s local pub and cash withdrawals of more than 6,000 euros.
The FAI did not respond to questions from Reuters over whether the alleged use of the credit card contravened its rules and Delaney’s solicitor did not respond when asked to comment on the report.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Toby Chopra and Toby Davis)