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Oireachtas Committee writes to FAI to ask for reversal of media ban at crucial EGM

It was also revealed that the FAI rang the Committee Chair on Sunday, offering a private briefing.

FAI headquarters at Abbottstown.
FAI headquarters at Abbottstown.

THE JOINT OIREACHTAS Committee on Sport are today writing to the Football Association of Ireland to ask for a reversal on the football body’s decision to exclude media from Saturday’s crucial EGM in Dunboyne. 

While members of the media are invited to a press conference to be held after the EGM, and have been welcomed to observe all of the subsequent AGM the following Saturday, media access has not been granted to the EGM itself. 

It is at this EGM that voting members will be asked whether to accept rule changes necessary for the adoption of the FAI-Sport Ireland Governance Review Report, making this meeting the de facto vote on whether to accept the structural changes necessary for the resumption of State funding. 

Speaking at the beginning of an Oireachtas Committee on Sport meeting with Sport Ireland about matters related to the FAI, Chair Fergus O’Dowd TD referenced a letter written yesterday by the Soccer Writers of Ireland, raising media exclusion from the EGM as a matter of concern. 

“It is wrong”, said Deputy O’Dowd at the beginning of the Committee meeting. 

“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.” 

He later confirmed that the Committee would write formally to the FAI to raise the issue. 

Speaking to The42 outside of session following the conclusion of the Committee meeting, Catherine Murphy TD said that the exclusion of media from the EGM promises “more of the same” from the FAI. 

“I actually made the point that the Committee should write to the FAI insisting that should happen. That has been a bugbear for some time, that questions are not taken or answered at the AGM or EGM from sports journalists.

There is an oversight role to be played by Oireachtas Committees, but equally there is an oversight role done by the media. They have to be allowed to their job. I wonder would we have got to this point had there been a different practice at the AGM, where people had been allowed to do that job.

“If they exclude journalists from the EGM or the AGM, I think we are going to get more of the same.” 

Separately, Deputy O’Dowd disclosed during the Committee meeting that he received a phonecall from the FAI last Sunday, in which he was asked if he would like to met in private with FAI President Donal Conway. 

Deputy O’Dowd rejected the invitation, and instead invited the FAI to return to a public meeting before the Committee. 

“In the interests of transparency, I received a phone call last Sunday [asking] would I be prepared to receive a private briefing from Mr. Conway abut the issues in relation to the FAI and the reports”, said Deputy O’Dowd during the Oireachtas Committee meeting. 

“My answer was that this would be unacceptable, and that there is no way that any communication would, could or should happen without the full knowledge of the Committee and in full public meeting.

“So I offered them the opportunity to come in here today, or tomorrow, or Friday or any day next week before their AGM if they wanted to clarify the issue.

“Subsequently, a letter arrived from Mr. Conway that the FAI, provided he is still President – which is the issue – will come in after the AGM.” 

Again speaking outside of session to The42, Deputy Murphy endorsed Deputy O’Dowd’s response to the call. 

“The Chair was absolutely right to refuse to have that type of engagement. The engagement has to be public, and I think he was quite right to refuse that offer.

“We will definitely have to have the FAI back into the Committee, and certainly some of the reports are due in September so I envisage we will have them back by that stage.” 

During the Committee meeting, Sport Ireland echoed Shane Ross’ letter yesterday calling for FAI President Donal Conway to stand down. 

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from Leinster House

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