FAI could face liquidation if Aviva Stadium loan is called in

Paul Cooke. Photo: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Delegates attending today’s reconvened annual general meeting of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) were informed of the threat of liquidation hovering over the organisation.

Vice-President Paul Cooke, also acting as voluntary executive lead, admitted this would be likely to unfold if the Bank of Ireland called in their €30m loan on the Aviva Stadium.

The original AGM in July had to be adjourned after the FAI were unable to present completed accounts for 2018. These were eventually furnished on December 6, along with revised financial statements for 2016 and 2017. Deloitte, the FAI’s auditors, refused to declare the FAI as a “going concern”.

Stuart Gilhooly from the Players Football Association of Ireland (PFAI) queried the repercussions of this status to the FAI’s survival.

“I can’t give a definitive answer to that but the situation is very serious,” said Mr Cooke.

There is a possibility of liquidation if the stadium loan is called in.

In attendance at CityWest Hotel were 130 delegates, 104 of whom were eligible to vote.

At this stage, the FAI’s liabilities have soared to almost €70m, leading financial controller Alex O’Connell to reveal a cash injection of €18m is essential to stave off insolvency. This was the figure cited by Sports Minister Shane Ross on December 16 following a showdown between the parties at Leinster House.

Ross ruled out the State directly bailing out the FAI but the prospect of buying their share in the national stadium remains in the mix. That may be the only solution for the cash-strapped organisation at the end of an unprecedented year of upheaval.

A report commissioned by Sport Ireland into corporate governance and financial concerns was last month referred to the Gardaí.

A number of other probes are underway, the most serious being by the State’s corporate watchdog, the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE).

They have interviewed both past and current directors of the FAI and carry the power to instigate criminal proceedings.

Deloitte, who have resigned as the FAI’s auditors after 23 years, were represented by Richard Howard and Niall Walsh.

They read a prepared statement contending they were misled by the FAI’s former directors.

Deloitte had approved all yearly accounts up to 2017 but in April of this year, lodged a H4 complaint under the Companies Act.

They accuse the FAI of not keeping proper records after details emerged of a €100,000 bridging loan given by former chief executive John Delaney to his employers in 2017. The loan, repaid later that year, was concealed from most of the board and omitted from the annual accounts.

FAI President Donal Conway will step down next month, completing a full clearout of the board under the Delaney era.

He agreed to a request from Derry City delegate Denis Bradley that the FAI release a statement later today apologising to the Irish public for the ongoing contoversies.

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