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John Treacy defends FAI presence on crucial reform group

The five-person group will recommend changes to how the football body is run, before the current FAI Board steps down.

Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy.
Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

SPORT IRELAND CEO John Treacy has explained the presence of two FAI staff on the five-person committee tasked with recommending changes to how the football body is run. 

A governance review group has been established to recommend reforms to how the FAI is run ahead of July’s AGM, at which the present Board will step down. 

There are two FAI staff on the governance group – Board member Niamh O’Donoghue and interim CEO Rea Walshe – while Sport Ireland appointed another two members Joseph O’Leary and Dr Moling Ryan – along with its chair, Aidan Horan of the Institute of Public Administration. 

That the group includes FAI representation has received criticism, most notably from Oireachtas Sport Committee member Catherine Murphy, who told last week’s Sunday Times she doesn’t have confidence in the group. 

Treacy today explained to The42 why FAI involvement in the group is essential. 

“There had to be two people from the sport on it as you can’t work in a vacuum”, said Treacy. 

“When were setting it up we all had one eye on Uefa too, in terms of government interference in a sport.

“The terms of reference were signed off on Friday by Sport Ireland, the FAI and Uefa as well.

“We want everyone to buy into this as Uefa are a really important partner and they are a lot more important in terms of financial contribution than Sport Ireland or the government.

“It was important they were comfortable and gave the thumbs up for the FAI to proceed.” 

Uefa’s rules state that member associations “shall manage their affairs independently and with no undue influence from third parties”; in this case read FAI for “member association” and the government as a third party. 

The group have already met and will meet on a weekly basis while working to a tight deadline: they intend to publish their recommendations on 21 June, in ample time for the FAI AGM on 27 July.

“This group will work extremely hard to get this done”, assured Treacy. 

“The timelines on this are extremely tight so we need to keep our heads down and go at it. But we have the right people sitting around the room to do it and deliver it.

“I guarantee you, they will come back with strong and robust ways forward.”

There is nothing to prevent the current Board members from immediately running for re-election at the forthcoming AGM, although Treacy expects all of the Board members  to stand down. 

“That’s a matter for themselves”, said Treacy, “but I understand they are all standing down.” 

Treacy also confirmed the terms of reference for the Mazars review of the FAI have yet to be finalised.

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The FAI have commissioned the review and are consulting Sport Ireland and the Office for the Director of Corporate Enforcement on its terms of reference, which are expected to be extensive and include credit card spending and third-party payments.

Sport Ireland saw a draft of those terms on the eve of their most recent Oireachtas Committee appearance on 16 April, but have yet to see the finalised terms. 

“No, we haven’t seen that finalised document yet”, confirmed Treacy.

“We would expect to see it fairly shortly, yes. The terms of reference from what we saw were very comprehensive.” 

Although the governance review may recommend radical changes to the FAI board, the Association are pressing ahead with business as usual, subject to these impending recommendations.

AGM members were sent a letter by interim CEO Rea Walshe on Sunday last, asking to send by registered post any nominations for the vacant roles of Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer to the FAI by close of business today, 30 April. It is proposed that a Special Council meeting be held after July’s AGM to elect these positions, unless the governance review recommends something else. 

The roles have been vacant since the resignations of Michael Cody and Eddie Murray on 15 April. 

John Treacy was speaking at the publication of the Sport Ireland Institute 2018 Review, which can be read here. 

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Gavin Cooney

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