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FAI dismiss claims of bank involvement in hiring chairperson as 'deflecting from the real issues'

FAI member Larry Bass has made several criticisms of the Association ahead of a crucial vote on reforms next Monday.

FAI Chair Roy Barrett.
FAI Chair Roy Barrett.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE FAI SAY the latest criticism of the appointment of Independent Chair Roy Barrett “deflects from the real issues facing the Association”.

Larry Bass, a TV executive who acts as chair of Cabinteely FC along with sitting on the FAI’s Council and Finance Committee, yesterday outlined a series of concerns in a letter to Barrett, FAI President Gerry McAnaney and Vice-President Paul Cooke. 

In the letter, seen by The42, Bass alleges Barrett was recommended for the role of independent chairperson by a figure at Bank of Ireland, the FAI’s bank and main creditor. 

Barrett was appointed as chair of the FAI in January, at the end of a process in which recruitment firm Amrop identified candidates and recommended them to the FAI Nominations Committee, which in turn recommended names to the FAI board.

The Nominations Committee includes representatives from Sport Ireland. 

The FAI did not explicitly deny Bass’ allegation when contacted by The42. 

An FAI spokesperson said, “Amrop were engaged to source suitable candidates for the role of Independent Chairperson of the FAI. Roy Barrett was identified by Amrop, recommended by them to the Nominations Committee of the FAI and his appointment was approved by the Board. Any other assertion is just misleading and deflects from the real issues facing the Association and the decisions that need to be made to safeguard the future of Irish football.” 

When asked to clarify what they mean by “misleading”, the FAI said they had no further comment to make. 

Bank of Ireland and Amrop both said they had no comment to make when contacted by The42

The FAI did not respond to requests for comment on a couple of other issues raised in Bass’s letter.

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Bass asked whether Barrett’s interviewing the two candidates for the position of interim CEO in January – Gary Owens and Paul Cooke – represented a conflict of interest, given Barrett and Owens are both named as members of the Football Visionary Group that last year published long-term proposals for the League of Ireland. (Owens says he has never attended a meeting of this group, and fellow member Niall Quinn says they effectively disbanded in May 2019.) 

Bass also claims that Barrett is ineligible to be a member of the FAI’s Nominations Committee, given the FAI rules state it can feature no more than two directors can sit on it. (Barrett is presently on this Committee, along with Dick Shakespeare and Gerry McAananey.) 

Although the FAI did not respond to a request for comment on the second of those questions, they did explain the situation in a letter to Council members earlier this week. 

The FAI wrote that while the rules do not allow for the chairperson’s (in this case Barrett’s) position on the Committee, the FAI Board allowed for that to happen when they drew up the Committee’s Terms of Reference in October.

In yesterday’s letter to Barrett, Bass is critical of the fact the Finance Committee has yet to meet, echoing a scathing letter written by fellow Committee member Andrew Doyle earlier this month, in which Doyle branded the FAI’s governance “appalling.” 

In that letter to Council members at the start of the week, the FAI gave several reasons as to why sub-committees had yet to either meet or be fully populated: the sheer amount of work in front of the board, much of which has been dominated by issues of finance; the lack of vetting process regarding election to these committees; the changes at CEO and executive level causing a transition process which led to these issues being “parked temporarily”; the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic; and the fact the board are “not 100% convinced in all cases that we have the right configuration of business and football committees.” 

Although Doyle has resigned, Bass says he is staying on and has called for the resignation of Barrett and two other independent directors, Catherine Guy and Liz Joyce. He did not include the fourth director, Robert Watt, as he was appointed on 21 July, more than six months after the other three. 

The FAI face a crucial vote at a virtual EGM next Monday evening, as members must agree to pass reforms by a two-thirds majority to trigger a government bailout and ward off the risk of insolvency.  

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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