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FAI sticking to policy of excluding media from crunch EGM

FAI President Donal Conway has also rejected the idea Saturday’s meeting is being ‘rushed.’

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

THE FAI ARE sticking by their resolution to refuse media access to Saturday’s Extraordinary General Meeting, at which delegates will vote whether to accept the structural changes that are one of the conditions of the restoration of State funding. 

Although media are invited to a press conference after the EGM, and are allowed access to all of the AGM the following week, the vote itself is behind closed doors. 

This was criticised as “wrong” by Fergus O’Dowd TD at yesterday’s sitting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Sport, and the Committee yesterday wrote to the FAI to raise the issue. 

“The only reason we are here in the first place is because of the efforts of journalists who exposed all of the issues in relation to money, so in the interests of accountability and transparency that the sports journalists would be able to attend and report verbatim on the process”, said O’Dowd. 

Despite his efforts, the FAI are sticking by their policy. 

“I understand the point you are making of the optics, but we have never had media at the EGM”, President Donal Conway told The42 today. 

“Media will be at the AGM and the Delegates’ dinner the night before. I personally enquired of a number of other sporting organisations as to what they do, and when they have serious issues of rule changes and policies, a lot of them have no media.

“They do have a press conference after, so we are not an outlier in not having media at an EGM.

“The position is we do a press conference.” 

Elsewhere, Conway disagreed with the idea, much expounded at yesterday’s meeting, that vote on the governance proposals are being rushed through. 

“We felt that to signal our intent, the first significant piece of work we could do was to get this produced. I asked Aidan [Horan, chair of the Governance Review Group] halfway through the process if he was happy that the time frame allowed him to produce a report based on his terms of reference, and he said he was.

“It was always our objective to get this through pretty quickly.

“When you have a crisis, everyone has a feeling that ‘we have to get something done.’

“The further away we get from March, April, May, it may be more difficult to implement the radical reforms we want to implement.”

Next week’s AGM will, for the first time in FAI history, proceed without a set of audited accounts. Conway said today that the “pressure on the finance function” at the FAI amid a series of reports, reviews and investigations have caused a hold up in putting the accounts together, but expects they will be produced by the end of September, in line with deadlines set down by company law. 

Elsewhere, Conway was reluctant to speak about the FAI’s financial position, with John Treacy telling yesterday’s Oireachtas meeting that Sport Ireland understand that “Uefa are funding them at the minute.”

“We have quite a lot of work done in [financial] analysis and planning with Uefa”, said Conoway today. “I can’t speak to that as it is a work in progress, and Uefa don’t want me to speak about it.

“John Treacy, and this is not a criticism of John, wouldn’t know a lot of that detail. I’ve told him we are in discussions with Uefa, but it is at a certain point in time that it doesn’t serve well for me to start talking about it.” 

Conway told a separate press conference last month that the FAI are working a new financial plan, in conjunction with Grant Thornton and Uefa. 

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Gavin Cooney

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