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'Sponsors would be unhappy if it’s not adopted' - FAI warn of importance of passing new reforms

The FAI also explained why some Board members would be going forward and were silent on John Delaney.

STOP US IF you have heard this one before – having engaged with a separate body, a politically beleaguered group have come back with a deal which they must now sell to members in order to move forward and out of the state of the paralysis they currently find themselves in. 

Donal Conway FAI President Donal Conway. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The politically beleaguered group this time around is the FAI, the deal is the structural reform recommended by their joint Governance Review Group and the paralysis from which they are trying to shake off is the suspension of state funding.

While the deal has been endorsed by the seven remaining members of the FAI Board, it must be passed by a two-thirds majority of the voting delegates at July’s AGM. With their publication, the FAI’s top brass will now begin lobbying members to accept the changes.

Key recommendations include the reshaping of the FAI Board to 12 members – four of whom are to be independent – along with the imposition of term limits to the FAI Council, who will vote for the six ‘football people’ to be appointed to the new Board. 

With the FAI finances in a parlous state, Conway warned that the failure to approve reform will dissatisfy sponsors, on whom the Association are reliant. 

“I think it will pass”, Conway told reporters. There is a huge job of work to be done, but I come back to it; where do any of us come from?

“I’m a volunteer in this game. I have been a volunteer in this game all my life. I know what motivates me and I know why I was invested in this game.

“I don’t think the people who we are asking to vote are going to be terribly dissimilar, so I think it’s about recognising that this is the best for the FAI.

“I would have talked to sponsors, for example, during the worst of the difficulties we have had over the recent number of months.

“We have talked to all of our sponsors. They are all, for example, looking very carefully at this and their continued involvement with brand FAI is dependent on this kind of report being adopted.” 

When asked if the FAI were facing the potential loss of sponsorship income should the reforms not pass, Conway said that “sponsors would be unhappy if it’s not adopted.” 

Aidan Horan, the Chairperson of the review group, warned that the FAI would be in a very “serious place” should the reforms not pass. 

There has already been the hint of trouble in this regard – SFAI Chairman John Earley resigned from the FAI Board this week in protest at the reform proposals, and the prospect of the SFAI block-voting against them in July is believed to be on the agenda at their AGM on Saturday week. 

Aidan Horan Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“John has resigned from the board and John comes from that constituency, the SFAI”, said Conway. 

“We will in due course meet that constituency and we will make the same presentation to them that we will make to every other part of the game, and the same kind of arguments that I am making here today to persuade them to support the deal.”

Elsewhere, Conway said that the appointment of independent members to the Board will “definitely” happen if the proposals are passed. The appointment of two independent, non-executive directors to the Board was recommended by the Genesis Report in 2002, after Roy Keane’s exit from Saipan. 

It never happened.

“We have to go to our members and get the report adopted”, said Conway.

“Once the report is adopted, there is no going back. The four independent directors on foot of its adoption, will definitely be put forward.” 

There will be an implementation group appointed tasked with making sure all of this happens, and there will be external, Sport Ireland presence on this group to provide oversight. 

Although the FAI Board wrote to Minister Shane Ross in April to say they intend to resign en masse at July’s AGM, the review group say that one or two present Board members should go forward to sit on the new 12-person Board.

Aidan Horan was eager to point out that this was recommended by the review group and not by the FAI, and the identity of those people will be decided on in an FAI Board meeting. 

Donal Conway denied this was a fudge to allow the present regime hang on through the crisis. 

“If you look at the backdrop of what is going on here at the moment – we have a number of investigations in-play, we have a number of other work streams in-play at the moment, certainly the sub-group of the Board have been centrally involved around that.

“If you take all of those people out of that, and put 12 new people in place who have not been engaged at all with our current issues, I’m not sure if that best serves the Board going forward. 

The process of lobbying will now begin, ahead of D-Day in Trim on 27 July. 

Those present, meanwhile, declined to answer any questions about John Delaney, the Executive Vice-President who has voluntarily stepped aside while investigations are ongoing. 


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Gavin Cooney

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