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New FAI president McAnaney: 'An awful lot of people said, ‘I don’t need this anymore’'

‘A number of people who showed their colours didn’t complete their full career within the FAI.’

Newly appointed president of FAI Gerry McAnaney.
Newly appointed president of FAI Gerry McAnaney.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

NEW FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION of Ireland president Gerry McAnaney has defended his long tenure on council, claiming he felt it better to remain on the committee rather than walk away in protest.

Amid the long inquest into corporate governance oversight during the reign of former chief executive John Delaney and his fellow board members, valid questions about the council’s role have been uppermost.

The committee, then 58 in number, had a responsibility under FAI rules to hold Delaney and his colleagues to account at their quarterly meetings.

Instead of being forums for debate, however, council meetings descended into platforms for monologue, devoid of any real scrutiny.

Derry City delegate Denis Bradley recently likened the reaction he got from posing a question toward the top table to Oliver Twist asking for food.

Fellow council members stared in silence at the northerner’s temerity to break the mould.

gerry-mcananey McAnaney at the FAI EGM in Blanchardstown on Saturday. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

McAnaney was for years one of those who suffered from apathy.

Unlike most of the clusters in the room such as League of Ireland or provincial delegates, the 61-year-old was the sole representative of the Defence Forces.

More recently, when the Governance Review Group recommended expanding the council to 79, he was nominated to take the second seat for the Football For All section.

McAnaney cited the level of interaction at today’s EGM and last month’s AGM as evidence of a new culture cascading through the organisation.

The man he replaced, Donal Conway, was the final remnant of Delaney’s old board.

“As a long-time council member, questions or queries weren’t encouraged,” said retired army commandment McAnaney, born in Dublin but living in Cork for the past 35 years, where he played as a goalkeeper for both Cork City and Cobh Ramblers.

“A number of people who showed their colours didn’t complete their full career within the FAI.

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“An awful lot of people said: ‘I don’t need this anymore’.

“For myself, despite what was going on around me, I concentrated on doing things that I was genuinely interested in for the good of football.

The concerns that I had about governance in the FAI were made known to the people I represented. I didn’t vote for certain changes, such as raising the age of officers to allow them stay longer in their posts.

gerry-mcananey McAnaney believes communication will be key for the FAI in future. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

McAnaney’s election victory over Martin Heraghty by 88 to 40 votes was much more comprehensive than expected.

He had lost out in a ballot to Paul Cooke for the vacancy of vice-president in July.

Sligo Rovers Chairman Heraghty was already a board member since the AGM in July, and together with McAnaney, will seek to overcome the ongoing crisis engulfing the FAI.

Goodbodys Stockbrokers’ managing director Roy Barrett was earlier this month appointed as the organisation’s first-ever independent chairman, accompanied by two other non-executive directors, Liz Doyle and Catherine Guy.

The final independent director, due to arrive shortly, will complete the new 12-person board.

Also taking up prominent positions, both of them full-time, are former Ireland striker Niall Quinn and Gary Owens, as deputy and CEO respectively. Neither attended the EGM at the Crowne Plaza in Blanchardstown.

“There’s been a lot going on in Irish football and people tell me that they’re not informed,” McAnaney noted.

Communication at the FAI is beginning to improve and I see myself, as president in its current situation, as playing a part in spreading the gospel around the country.

Although he declined to confirm it, the new president will likely seek re-election when his interim role ends at the AGM in July.

In normal circumstances, the president’s term lasts four years and while the sense of normality within the FAI seems a long time away, a belated blood transfusion at least offers hope it being achieved.

About the author:

John Fallon

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