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Morale among staff at 'all-time low' as FAI endure another chaotic day

SIPTU want to meet with Shane Ross amid concerns of job losses at an organisation now without a Chief Executive.

A view of FAI HQ in Abbottstown.
A view of FAI HQ in Abbottstown.
Image: ©INPHO

TRADE UNION SIPTU says morale among staff at the Football Association of Ireland is at an “all-time low” after another chaotic day for the crisis-hit organisation. 

Former Athletics Ireland boss John Foley was due to begin his duties as interim CEO of the FAI yesterday morning, but decided against taking up the role at the last minute, citing a lack of support among some FAI “stakeholders.” 

In a statement, SIPTU sector organiser Denis Hynes said members are seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister for Sport Shane Ross, as the continued suspension of state funding to the football body breeds anxiety over potential job losses. 

Mr. Hynes also said that members have expressed “serious concern” about the future of the FAI. 

“Morale among staff in the FAI is at an all-time low, with media reports of the possibility of up to 100 job losses causing great concern”, read the statement. 

It is not only the livelihoods of workers which are under threat here but soccer at community level across Ireland. Our members have requested that the Minister for Sport, Shane Ross, meets with their representatives urgently to discuss the situation in the FAI and how the current crisis can be resolved.

The role of CEO remains vacant now, following the end of Noel Mooney’s six-month secondment from Uefa. He had resumed his job in Switzerland when news broke of Foley’s late change of heart.

An FAI statement expressed regret at Foley’s decision, and The42 understands opposition to Foley’s taking the role did not come from the FAI or from football circles. 

A statement from Ministers Ross and Brendan Griffin yesterday noted Foley’s decision to decline the role, and emphasised that the new FAI CEO “should be completely independent of any present or previous involvement in the FAI.” 

Foley did not fit that description, as in 2007 he was nominated by John Delaney as an independent director to the League of Ireland National Executive. Minister Ross has insisted he wants an entirely clean sweep of the FAI, and has consistently criticised Donal Conway’s continuing as president until July 2020. 

FAI sources have previously indicated to The42 that Mooney wished to continue in the role, but his links with Delaney and the previous regime made this scenario unacceptable to Minister Ross.  

There is also a growing concern in the FAI that Minister Ross’ statement that the new CEO should have no links to the previous regime will infringe on Fifa rules outlawing any third party interference in a football association. This issue arose in July, when Ross called for Conway to withdraw his nomination for president at the forthcoming AGM. 

In response, the FAI published a letter addressed to them from Fifa and Uefa, stating the governing bodies were “seriously concerned” over the statement, and added a reminder that contravention of the rule carried a possible suspension from international competition. 

In an interview with Tony O’Donoghue of RTÉ last night, Minister Ross said he is not infringing on those rules. 

“It’s not government interference, it’s government funding that is at stake, here. We are talking about the restoration of funding, and we will restore funding when we are certain the old habits have died.” 

The restoration of state funding is contingent on the FAI meeting a number of targets set down by Sport Ireland, which included governance reform and the football body’s being subject to a forensic audit. 

The audit has been conducted and completed by Northern Ireland accounting firm KOSI, but Minister Ross announced last week that it would not yet be published, citing legal advice. Sport Ireland also referred the report to the Gardaí. 

Since this decision was made, the FAI have been at pains to point out that they have not been found to have spent public funds improperly. This has since been verified by Sport Ireland. 

Minister Ross also emphasised yesterday the FAI’s need to appoint four independent directors to the board, one of the as-yet unfulfilled recommendations of the governance reform process. 

The co-opting of independent directors onto the board was recommended by the post-Saipan Genesis Report as far back as 2002, but it didn’t happen. 

Meanwhile, the full extent of the Association’s finances are set to be laid bare on Thursday, when the accounts for 2018 are finally published.

paul-cooke Paul Cooke. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

July’s AGM was adjourned as a set of accounts were not made available for the first time in the FAI’s history, but they are set to be published this week ahead of the reconvening of the AGM at the end of this month. 

Vice-President Paul Cooke has warned that the figures will cause shock, and the accounts are also expected to include the details of the severance package paid to John Delaney in September. 

Increasing debt and spiralling legal costs have left the FAI relying on the early drawdown of funds from Uefa. 

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Gavin Cooney

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