Gary Owens. Tommy Dickson/INPHO
out of the running

Gary Owens pulls out of race to be permanent CEO of the FAI

One member of the ‘Visionary Group’ will not be continuing at the FAI.

INTERIM FAI CEO Gary Owens has withdrawn from the race to take the role on a full-time basis. 

Owens wrote to FAI staff today to inform them he wouldn’t be seeking the permanent role, having informed Chair Roy Barrett yesterday. 

Owens publicly announced the news to the FAI’s website.  

“My objective in taking the interim role of Chief Executive was to help put the Association into a stable financial position with a new structure that would allow the Association to move forward with confidence”, said Owens. 

“Over the last six months, we have delivered a financial package to ensure the solvency of the Association, have put a new Senior Leadership and a new International Management team in place and I am confident that this new team will bring the Association to a new level for the benefit of all.

“This team will have the support of our members who provided overwhelming support for the constitutional and governance changes required for sustainable reform at our EGM last Monday.” 

He will continue in the role until a full-time appointment is made, and says he then plans to “original plans in the business world.”

Owens remained coy in public as to whether he would apply for the role on a full-time basis, refusing to confirm his intention either way as recently as Monday, in spite of applications for the job closing on 6 July. 

It was widely expected he would apply for the role, however, and this announcement comes days after interviews of a shortlist of candidates began. 

Owens was appointed on an interim basis in January, and he almost immediately introduced Niall Quinn to the fold as his deputy CEO on an interim basis. 

Owens, Quinn and Barrett are all linked through a “Visionary Group” which published proposals for a large-scale overhaul of Irish football last year. Owens played down these links, and said he has never been involved in a meeting with the Visionary Group. 

He came in for a stinging public rebuke by the eight football directors on the FAI board last month, over media comments claiming the board had fully approved a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Barrett and then-Minister Shane Ross, underpinning a State bailout. 

Owens was involved in several high-profile restructures and decisions at Abbottstown, including the passing of a series of reforms in return for a State bailout, a restructure of the FAI Executive, and the acceleration of the McCarthy/Kenny succession plan. 

Focus will now shift to the role of Quinn, who said he would remain at the FAI until last Monday’s EGM. Roy Barrett was unable to provide clarity on Quinn’s future role at a press conference on Monday, although it’s understood Quinn has previously expressed an interest in a lower-profile role at the Association, either working with schoolboy clubs or in an area involving young players’ transfers to clubs in the UK. 

The FAI have not had a permanent CEO since John Delaney became Executive Vice-President in March 2019, with Olympic Council President Sarah Keane reportedly in the mix for the role. 

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