FAI CEO Hill claims €11,500 lieu of holidays payment came from a 'throwaway line'

FAI CEO Hill claims €11,500 lieu of holidays payment came from a 'throwaway line'

The CEO of the FAI, Jonathan Hill, has claimed that the €11,500 lieu of holiday payment that was made to him by the organisation came from a "throwaway line" in a conversation between him and another FAI employee.

Last year, FAI CEO Hill received payments for expenses and compensation for accrued but unused holidays, resulting in his total compensation exceeding government-imposed limits set during the organization's 2020 bailout.

A recommendation outlined in clause 35 of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreement with the government stipulates that the FAI chief executive's compensation should align with the government's pay guidelines for a secretary general. This disclosure led to the temporary suspension of funding for the FAI.

Mr. Hill and a FAI delegation from the Football Association of Ireland appeared before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday to explain in detail how he received the payment. Mr. Hill explained that the matter of holiday pay surfaced within the context of another staff member's request, submitted via email, for payment in lieu. This arrangement had been previously authorised by the finance director and the chief operating officer at that time.

"You'll see that an email was sent to me actually in mid-November, which came from the junior employee we're seeking to protect from a legal perspective, just to make that clear," said the FAI CEO. 

"In that email, I am asked if I agree to a request from that junior colleague to convert holidays that the employee could not take for exceptional circumstances into a cash payment. I accept that you can't see the words in the redacted statement, but that is for legal reasons.

"But within that, just to explain, both the then Finance Director and the COO had agreed to this request already, and that's referenced in the email. So, I too agreed to it, although that was not a formal approval, as due process would need to be followed.

Mr. Hill explained that he was emailed by a junior employee, who requested that their untaken holiday days be converted to cash, owing to exceptional circumstances.

Mr. Hill also went on to say to the committee, "Can you negotiate the same for me, please?" in what he claims was not a request and was more of a "throwaway line" in the redacted emails. The former Finance Director, Alex O'Connell, was copied to this email, and Mr. Hill said O’Connell interpreted the joke as a formal request.

"Within that response, I am comfortable, because it doesn't relate to the junior employee, in saying that I added a throwaway line to that junior colleague, saying, "Can you negotiate the same for me, please?" For me, it's clear that this was not a formal request, and it was in an email back to the junior colleague," he added.

"I copied the then Finance Director to the note, as I agreed, as he had done. He obviously takes that line as a request and uses that email chain to go himself to the chair. From then on, I am not part of that process, although I am asked five weeks later, as would be normal at the end of the year, how many days of holiday I have taken. I reply and ask what is happening with them, saying clearly that I would be happy to carry them over."

When questioned by the committee chair, Brian Stanley, about the extensive redaction of a letter regarding Mr. Hill's "throwaway" remark and why simply redacting the name of the junior staff member was deemed insufficient, Mr. Hill clarified that the redactions were made based on legal counsel.

"I understand that the decision to heavily redact the letter was guided by legal advice received by the association, advice to which I was not privy. The intention behind these redactions was to safeguard the anonymity of the junior employee involved, a measure I believe is ethically sound. However, I want to emphasise that the decision to redact was not mine to make."