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FAI Council member raises further concern over 'ticking time bomb' government agreement

The FAI have agreed to adopt a series of controversial rule changes to secure a State bailout, but these are causing unease among some members.

A view of FAI Headquarters at Abbottstown.
A view of FAI Headquarters at Abbottstown.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

ANOTHER MEMBER OF the FAI Council has expressed concern about proposed structural changes at the Association – necessary under the terms of the €18 million State bailout of the FAI – and is balloting fellow members on an Emergency Council meeting to debate the issue. 

James Kelly of the Leinster Football Association has written to all fellow Council members warning of a “ticking time bomb” contained in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Independent FAI Chairperson Roy Barrett and former Sports Minister Shane Ross, which, in Kelly’s view, “threatens the very existence of our Association as a sovereign body.”

To fulfill their end of the bailout, the FAI agreed to restructure their Board of Management to consist of six directors elected from football constituencies and another six independent directors. (The current composition is 8/4 in football’s favour.) 

In the event of a split vote, the independent chairperson has a casting vote. 

It was also agreed that any Council members’ with more than 10 years’ service would leave their roles at the next FAI AGM, which has been fixed for September. 

The Council is the FAI’s 78-person representative body, and it elects the Association’s President and Vice-President along with approving any major rule changes. 

Thus Council must approve the rule changes promised in the Memo of Understanding with the government. 

Last month another Council member, Nixon Morton, wrote to Uefa and Fifa to highlight these changes, claiming they threatened the FAI’s sovereignty. Morton claimed to be representing a number of people, but has declined to clarify who they are.

Although Shane Ross has since been replaced as Sports Minister by Catherine Martin, she and her Junior Minister Dara Calleary last week wrote to the FAI to say these changes must be followed through on, warning against “alarming” media reports that the terms of the agreement may be changed. 

In a letter to fellow Council members sent earlier today, James Kelly warns against these changes. 

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“It cannot be overemphasised how significant is the threat posed by the ticking time bomb contained in the Memorandum Of Understanding signed by Shane Ross and Roy Barrett”, writes Kelly.

He writes that these changes would remove the “key role played by Senior Council”, and “would expose the game of football in Ireland to the real danger of excessive control by outside interests ceding ownership of the game to these outside parties and resulting in a complete loss of sovereignty.” 

Kelly has asked all fellow Council members to consider taking part in an Emergency Council meeting on the issue, as he writes that “constructive engagement between Council and Board is critical to avoid a future crisis that may very well follow an acrimonious EGM.” 

“Council members have no reason to believe that the very significant demand for reform, indicated by the votes at EGM and AGM last July in support of the Governance Review Report has in any way abated”, he continues.

“Continue with the necessary reform of the Association and hopefully the Association that emerges is one that volunteers all across the country can feel they have a stake in and are respected for their efforts to promote and grow the game.

“Irrespective of what your personal views are on any of these issues, or other issues, I feel it is incumbent on Senior Council members to have a full Council meeting at which everyone can freely express their views in a constructive manner in a properly convened meeting following all prescribed medical and Government guidelines.”

Kelly also outlines his “dismay” at other issues at the FAI, including what he describes as a “failure to keep Council members updated on the implementation progress of the recommendations adopted in the Governance Review Report” along with what he calls the “snail-like progress in the recruitment and appointment of a new CEO.” 

Gary Owens is serving as interim CEO at the moment, and the FAI have advertised the role on a permanent basis. 

Kelly is also critical of the fact that the membership of the Football Management Committee has not yet finalised, while the Finance Committee has not met since it was elected in October 2019. Finance Committee members Andrew Doyle and Larry Bass raised similar concerns in a letter to Roy Barrett last month. 

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Gavin Cooney

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