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Donal Conway to consider his position as FAI President amid political pressure

Shane Ross, a host of politicians and Sport Ireland have all called on him to step away this week.

Donal Conway.
Donal Conway.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

FAI PRESIDENT DONAL Conway has said he will consider his position as FAI President following a week of intense political pressure. 

The FAI announced this week that Conway had been nominated unopposed to continue as President ahead of the 27 July AGM, which led Sports Minister Shane Ross to write to Conway on Tuesday to ask him to withdraw his nomination. 

The Minister wrote that Conway’s running again contravenes an April letter in which he and the rest of the Board promised to step down at the next Association’s next AGM, although the FAI-Sport Ireland Governance Review report has changed the picture somewhat. 

Among its recommendations is a suggestion that one or two of the present Board remain on an interim Board for 12 months for handover and transition purposes, mandated to implement the report’s recommendations.

Sport Ireland – who have frozen State funding to the FAI – echoed Ross’ sentiments at an Oireachtas meeting on Wednesday that Conway and the entire Board should stand down as intended. 

“That is exactly what the intention was; that everyone would step away at the AGM was absolutely my intention”, Conway said yesterday.

“Both my members, the members of the Association and a recommendation in this report talked about continuity. 

“I was elected for a four-year term but from March on, there was no such thing as a four-year term for me. That’s gone.

“My term as president was going to end in July and it may still.

“But the Board looked at it collectively and asked was there any merit or value in one or two members going on to an interim Board and I did make it absolutely clear to Sport Ireland that if I did transition to an interim board then it would be for one year and then I was finished.

“There was no question of resuming long term as president; I would be finished.

“Now our board as considered all that happened yesterday [at the Oireachtas Committee] and what the wider context is.” 

When asked to clarify whether he would be stepping away later this month, Conway said the Board are “looking at a number of different scenarios.”

“We can’t disregard what has been said.

“People have asked me, ‘What’s your motivation in terms of your position on the interim Board?’

“It is just simply being pragmatic. There is an awful lot going on in the FAI -two serious investigations and a number of other work programmes. I have been centrally involved across all of them over the last number of months. So what is the most pragmatic thing to do?

“There have been all sorts of suggestions made about what my motivation is. It’s simply that.

“I was never going to be a four-year president as I am culpable having been a member of the Board for a long time.

“But, in the immediate crisis, we could have stood away. We have worked through that crisis and we considered whether one or two Board members could bring value to an Interim Board for 12 months

“But all factors must be taken into consideration when making that decision. It’s not a personal decision, it is a broader decision. What is best for the Association.”

An EGM has been called for tomorrow to vote for the rule changes necessary to begin the implementation of the governance reviews, among the conditions for the reinstating of State funding.

A two-thirds majority is needed to pass the rules, and Conway has been leading the FAI Board’s selling of the proposals in a series of roadshows across the country with EGM members over the last few weeks.

“That’s literally every hour of the day -the EGM”, he said. 

He is optimistic about their passing. 

“Judging by the reaction at the roadshows I would think so, I would think that we may reach that with a little bit of surplus.

“At the same time, to be quite frank, events of each day can change members minds. Yesterday [at the Oireachtas] would have impacted members.

Another aspect that would be fed to us would be that ‘we are an autonomous body, Mr President, we look to you to ensure we are an autonomous body and we are not being dictated to by some external agency. When these kinds of conversations start, I try to tell members that it is not about that, it is about ourselves. It is about having the good sense to see that this is the first part of this journey; this facilitates us doing a lot more work.

“I have to be honest, I got reactions yesterday evening and you’re trying to tell people not to pay too much attention to yesterday. Let’s focus on the business of Saturday, that’s what really matters.”

The Board will meet on Saturday morning where they will also consider postponing the AGM slated for 27 July. A number of politicians called on Wednesday for the AGM to be postponed given the ongoing investigations and the fact that the meeting is currently set to proceed without a set of audited accounts for the first time in FAI history. 

The drawing up of the accounts has been delayed given the various investigations and reviews ongoing at Abbottstown, although Conway anticipates they will be ready by the end of September, in line with deadlines set down by company law.

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Gavin Cooney

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