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FAI deny claim of 'gerrymandering' board elections process after structural overhaul

A new structure sees the FAI’s membership split into three groups, with only one of them guaranteed two seats on the board.

File photo of FAI President Gerry McAnaney.
File photo of FAI President Gerry McAnaney.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

THE PRESIDENT AND Chairperson of the FAI have denied there was any gerrymandering of the process by which members are elected to its board of management following an overhaul of the its membership structure, with one section of the game guaranteed an additional board seat compared to the other two. 

An FAI EGM at the weekend overwhelmingly passed all five motions on the table, one of which included replacing the FAI Council with a new and larger body known as the General Assembly.

The new structure divides the 141-person membership into three chambers, with one board member elected from the “Professional” and “Amateur” chambers, and two members elected from the “National Bodies” group, in which representatives of schoolboys’ and schoolgirls’ football are included. 

The remaining two seats on the board are the roles of President and Vice-President, and they are elected from the entire membership and thus can come from any of the three sectors. 

During the EGM and prior to the vote, the FAI were accused of gerrymandering the process by which members are elected to the board, but President Gerry McAnaney denied the charge when it was put to him separately at a press conference after the meeting. 

“The term gerrymandering was mentioned in today’s meeting but I can assure you it was never, ever part of anything that in the working groups involved in the General Assembly, or the board, at any stage, that there would be an attempt to gerrymander anything or anyone.

“It was the intention of everyone on both working groups that everything be equitable and fair and this was also the view of best practice in Uefa and Fifa.”

The General Assembly replaces the FAI Council as the body which votes on rule changes and holds the FAI board to account. The introduction of the Assembly is the latest of the FAI’s governance overhauls, and it has been introduced as it is in line with what Fifa and Uefa recommend as best practice. 

The 141-person membership has been split into three chambers under a recommendation from Uefa to best reflect the diversity of Irish football. 

The three chambers are “Professional”, which includes representatives from League of Ireland clubs, Women’s National League clubs, the PFAI, and supporters’ groups; “Amateur”, which consists of representatives of the four provincial associations, adult amateur leagues, and amateur players’ representatives; and “National Bodies”, under which Schoolboys’ and Schoolgirls’ football is included along with various other affiliates including the Defence Forces, Colleges, Football for All. 

The Professional chamber has three fewer seats (45) than the other two chambers, and so their votes are given added weighting to balance out the difference.

The FAI board consists of six external and independent directors and another six directors elected from the General Assembly. The President and Vice-President are elected from the Assembly membership as a whole, and thus can come from any of the three chambers. 

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FAI Chairperson Roy Barrett echoed McAnaney’s view, and said the allocation of board seats can be changed in the future. 

“This has been an iterative process, which has included huge amount of input from Uefa and Fifa in terms of the design and how the whole thing would be structured.

“While there have been working groups and a fair amount of dialogue in all aspects of the game, everything ultimately came back to the board to be signed off. When people use terms like gerrymandering, there’s certainly people on the board who are completely independent of all the affiliates, all parts of the game, and certainly I was satisfied and we were satisfied that the structure that has been accepted is the appropriate one from them.

“The other thing that would have been said today and through the whole consultation process is that this is a point in time, and if there’s an acceptance that going forward that change is necessary, be it in that or any aspect of the constitution or structure, there’s a democratic process and they can do that.”

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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