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Shelbourne chairman Andrew Doyle brands FAI governance 'appalling' in resignation letter

Doyle has resigned from the Finance Committee, which has yet to convene. ‘”I’m not entirely sure it is possible to resign from a Committee which does not yet exist’, wrote Doyle.

FAI Chairperson Roy Barrett, to whom Doyle addressed his resignation letter.
FAI Chairperson Roy Barrett, to whom Doyle addressed his resignation letter.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

SHELBOURNE CHAIRMAN ANDREW Doyle has written to FAI chairperson Roy Barrett to inform him of his resignation from the Association’s Finance Committee. 

The story was first reported this afternoon by The Irish Sun. 

In a strongly-worded letter, seen by The42, Doyle is very critical of the standards of  governance at the FAI, branding the board’s performance on the matter as “appalling.” 

Under the reforms recommended by a review of the FAI’s governance last year, the Association established a number of sub-committees, including a Finance Committee. Doyle was appointed to this Committee, but it has yet to meet.

“I’m not entirely sure it is possible to resign from a Committee which does not yet exist, but I do so in any event”, wrote Doyle. This isn’t the first such resignation to hit the FAI in recent months: PwC partner Seán Brodie resigned from the Audit Committee in May as it too had yet to meet. 

The FAI hierarchy have explained that these Committees have yet to be fully populated and meet as they seek to implement a fit and proper person test for all potential members. 

Doyle was elected to the FAI Council last year as a representative of Shelbourne, and is a graduate of Blackrock College and UCD. He has previously served as Partner at firms A&L Goodbody and then Matheson in London, before returning home to work as Managing Partner at Maples and Calder. 

He voiced his concerns directly to the FAI board and interim CEO Gary Owens at a stormy Council meeting at the Red Cow Hotel last Friday, and informed Barrett of his resignation by email last Sunday evening. The email was also sent to Chief Operating Officer Rea Walshe, President Gery McAnaney, and Vice-President Paul Cooke. 

Doyle wrote, “I am relatively new to the FAI Council, joining last year. I had hoped – indeed expected – that this years ‘new dawn’ would be bright and characterised by good governance at the very least.

“As I said to you at the recent Council meeting, and again in our conversation afterwards, this FAI Boards’ performance on governance – in a little over six months – has been appalling. As I said to you, the most galling thing is that it has been entirely avoidable. You could have done it differently. Yet, despite warnings, you did not.” 

The FAI has been beset by division and rancour in the last week, ahead of a 31 August vote on the terms of the government bailout. Roy Barrett signed a Memo of Understanding with then-sports minister Shane Ross on 30 January that committed the FAI to a number of reforms, two of which proved contentious to those who must vote on them: a change to the FAI board to a split of six independent directors and six elected football directors; and a demand that Council members’ with more than 10-years’ service must stand aside this year. 

In his letter, Doyle raised six specific issues. 

He questioned Roy Barrett’s assertion that a 16 March vote by Council gave the FAI Board the authority to agree to the terms of a government along with a refinancing agreement with Bank of Ireland. Citing legal opinion disseminated among Council by member Nixon Morton, Doyle wrote that communication with Council relating to that 16 March “make it abundantly clear that Council was only being asked to approve the terms of the Bank of Ireland facility.” 

He also criticised the FAI for holding a vote for permission to borrow €5 million from Fifa at last Friday’s Council meeting without offering the precise terms of the repayment. 

“I support the borrowings, but governance, at its most basic, requires full information and transparency. Asking for a significant loan without informing the Council of the repayment terms is, well, ridiculous”, wrote Doyle. 

Doyle was also critical of the failure to convene the Finance Committee from which he has now resigned. 

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“Yet you [Roy Barrett] have entirely failed, despite numerous formal complaints, to convene it. Your stated excuse, that you haven’t got round yet (due to pressure of work) to review the Terms of Reference is, as I said at the Council meeting, patently ridiculous.

“You have spent vastly more time in correspondence trying to excuse your failure to convene it than would have been required to review the Terms in the first place. In fact, the executive team seem more preoccupied with burnishing their reputations in media interviews and press releases (50 odd in six months) than on these key matters.” 

Doyle also criticised the failure to provide the Finance Committee with financial information, which, he says, he and fellow member Larry Bass have been asking for since January. 

“Nothing – absolutely nothing – has been provided. As I said at the meeting, I am as informed on financial matters as the passive observer who reads the media”, wrote Doyle. 

The process by which Barrett signed the MoU on 30 January has been scrutinised in the last few days. Barrett received the MoU by email shortly before 9pm on 29 January, and sent it to his fellow board members at 9.02 am on 30 January.

No board meeting was held prior to Barrett signing the MoU, and a number of board members raised concerns about its terms via email. Barrett, however, believes he had a mandate to sign the document as the board made it clear at a 28 January meeting the priority was to strike a deal to save the FAI from insolvency. 

This, wrote Doyle, was a “breach” of his duties as independent chairperson. 

Doyle also found fault with the composition of the Nominations Committee, which identifies and recommends independent directors to be appointed to the FAI board. This Committee is understood to be chaired by Gerry McAnaney and consists of Dick Shakespeare and Barrett from the FAI board along with two reps appointed by Sport Ireland – Olive Loughnane and Peter McLoone – and an external recruitment expert Christina Kenny.

Doyle says this is a breach of the FAI rules, writing “rules require that independent non-directors are in the majority on this Committee.” The FAI rulebook doesn’t quite use this phrasing, but says the Committee can consist of no more than six people, and must include the FAI President as chair, one other board member, one expert in recruitment, and “up to three members co-oped by the board where necessary.”

Finally, Doyle writes that “the most egregious failure” is the fact he and Bass have raised these concerns over the last few months and, in Doyle’s eyes, “nothing has been done about them.” 

“At one point you even told me – in writing – that you thought many of my points were reasonable. However you then went on to ignore them in correspondence and continue to obfuscate.

“You compounded this – extraordinarily – by saying at the Council meeting that if confronted with the same circumstances again as existed over the manner in which you signed the MOU – you would do exactly the same again.

“It is this obstinacy which has led me to the decision to resign as a member of the Finance Committee.” 

The FAI declined to comment on Doyle’s resignation when contacted by The42

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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