A view of the Aviva Stadium. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
gender balance

FAI in danger of large funding cut as General Assembly votes against board restructure

Like all state-funded NGBs, the FAI must achieve 40% female representation on its board by the end of this year or face financial penalties.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 10th 2023, 2:23 PM

THE FAI IS staring down the barrel of a huge cut to its state funding after a vote by the association’s General Assembly decreased the likelihood that Irish football’s governing body will meet government-mandated gender quotas by the end of 2023.

Despite prior warning from the FAI that a failure to reach a 40% quota of female members on its board would wind up costing the association €4.35 million, the assembly at tonight’s EGM “voted against the proposed constitutional change to allow two additional female candidates to join the FAI board”, according to an FAI statement.

Meanwhile, the FAI’s current independent chairperson, Roy Barrett, confirmed that Thursday’s EGM would be his final meeting in the role. The association will need to appoint a new chairperson for December’s crucial AGM.

As part of Sport Ireland’s Action Plan for Sport 2021-2023, all state-funded national governing bodies in Irish sport must have at least 40% female representation on their boards by the end of this calendar year or face a reduction in their funding.

Early last month, the FAI postponed its AGM — initially scheduled for 21 October — until 9 December. This delay was made to facilitate Thursday’s EGM, during which the FAI board hoped it could pass a change in the association’s constitution which would see the number of directors increased from 12 to 14, with two new female candidates then joining the board to take it to the critical 40% threshold.

This proposal, in which the new 14-person board would consist of a 7-7 split between traditional and independent directors, was accepted. However, only 66% of delegates voted in favour, well short of the three-quarter vote required for the proposal to be passed.

One of the most pressing problems in getting the vote over the line is that many people from the amateur side of the game see this proposed 7-7 split as an effective coup of the FAI by independent parties.

A last-ditch effort to salvage the €4.35m in funding has been proposed by the Leinster FA (LFA), who have a 10% voting influence.

As was the case with Thursday’s failed motion, Leinster’s proposal would also increase the board size to 14 people an include the addition of two new female directors. A potentially crucial difference, however, is that both of those new directors would come from within the game, meaning there would be an 8-6 split on the the new board in favour of traditional directors over independents.

The LFA has called for an EGM on 2 December — a week before the FAI’s AGM — at which this new proposal will be put to the association’s General Assembly.

“The LFA calls on the Board of the FAI to support this request for an EGM on 2 December,” the LFA said in a statement this afternoon.

“By adding two female directors from within Irish football, this proposal offers a clear pathway to the Board of the FAI for the growing number of females working diligently across all levels of our game. It also allows us to not be over reliant on the Independents to produce female directors to meet the required 40% female representation.” 

The Premier Clubs Alliance (PCA), the representative body of the ten Premier Division clubs in the League of Ireland, said meeting the gender quota is the “correct thing to do”. 

“Our clubs voted for, and were fully supportive of, the board’s proposed change to a 7/7 split with the creation of a new vice president role which would be taken by a female candidate.” the PCA said in a statement. 

“We feel, as a group of clubs, that the Association must meet the required gender quota requirements because it is the correct thing to do. Our game is witnessing huge growth in female participation at all levels and this must be mirrored in the board of the Association.

“The potential loss of funding is also a key consideration, this simply cannot occur given the dire need for significant investment in our game following years of neglect. We, as the League of Ireland Premier Clubs, are at the fore of the professional game and require further government supports, not cuts.”   

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