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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 19 February, 2020

Departing Board member Fitzroy may re-appear on FAI's new football committee

Elsewhere, Shane Ross last night met with Fifa and Uefa, amid warnings over government interference at the Association.

Noel Fitzroy, stepping down at today's AGM.
Noel Fitzroy, stepping down at today's AGM.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

INCUMBENT NOEL FITZROY, who reluctantly withdrew his nomination to be elected FAI Vice-President ahead of the vote at today’s AGM in Trim, may yet return to the Association on the newly-formed Football Management Committee. 

With Donal Conway re-elected as President and the SFAI’s John Earley put back on the Board by the schoolboys constituency, Fitzroy had to fall on his sword as the FAI would otherwise have been in breach of the Governance Review Group’s recommendation that no more than two Board members continue on an interim Board for one more year. 

Fitzroy told delegates that he had been put in an “impossible situation”, and to avoid “further crisis” at the FAI, he opted to withdraw his nomination. 

Speaking to delegates at the top table after Fitzroy’s speech, Conway applauded his stance and said that “we should all ensure Noel has a considerable and significant role in football going forward.”

Speaking to the media at a post-AGM press conference, Conway admitted that Fitzroy may be a candidate for the new football management committee. This committee is second in importance only to the Board and will feature the various representatives from across the game that constituted the old Board.

It is envisaged that this group will conduct much of the business of football going forward, subject to Board approval. 

Conway told the media that he had spoken with Fitzroy about the issue over the last 24 hours, and “he had assured me he would do the right thing. But it was a difficult situation for Noel and I was conscious of that, I’m quite close to Noel.” 

“Noel and I discussed all the options”, continued Conway.

“We were very clear that it’s an interim Board and I’m on a temporary lease, anyway. My own personal view on it is I think Noel should have a much longer time than that around the administration of the game.

“I can’t give him any guarantees. I know Noel wants to stay involved in football administration, and I would like to see him continue in football administration. I can’t hand Noel a guarantee of anything.” 

When Conway was asked if Fitzroy might sit on the new football committee, he replied that “I would think that’s what he has an interest in, so that has to be looked at.” 

Fitzroy joined the FAI Board last August. 

He also confirmed that Fitzroy – along with the rest of the departing Board members – are eligible to run for re-election to the Board next year.

The AGM was attended by two representatives from Uefa - Thierry Favre and Yann Hafner – along with Sara Solemale of Fifa. 

All three met with Sports Minister Shane Ross yesterday, as the tension between his demand that Conway steps down and Fifa and Uefa’s guidelines against third-party/government interference continues to simmer. 

The FAI last week published a letter from the two football governing bodies, warning against Ross exerting undue influence on how the FAI is run. 

The now-former Board member Niamh O’Donoghue represented the FAI at the meeting, and as Donal Conway relayed at the press conference today, Ross did not back down from his stance. 

“Minister Ross met with two members of Uefa – Yann and Thierry – and Sara from Fifa, and the only Board member there was Niamh O’Donoghue”, said Conway. 

“They had a constructive discussion. Some number of weeks ago we brought Fifa and Uefa across to meet with Sport Ireland, and they were laying out their lines, and if you cross those there is the danger of third-party interference.

“I wasn’t there but I got a report, and Uefa and Fifa reinforced their situation that choices about who leads the executive team or the officer Board would be matters for the member association.

“Minister Ross stuck to the position he has adopted over the last number of weeks.

“At any juncture talking about Minister Ross, I’ve always held out an olive branch. I’m not going to press that into a potential conflict or create a sense of impending threat – the fact that the meeting took place and that conversations took place is good.

“Both sides understand their respective positions better. That’s always good.”

Donal Conway Donal Conway speaks to the media after the FAI AGM. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Conway repeated the FAI line in response to the Minister that they are honouring the governance review report.  The President declared himself happy with the AGM’s outcomes, at which eight of the new Board were appointed. 

Joining Conway, Cooke and Earley are Martin Heraghty (Sligo Rovers) and Dick Shakespeare (UCD), elected from the League of Ireland constituency, while ex-referee Joe O’Brien (colleges) edged out Stuart Gilhooley from the constituency encompassing miscellaneous others.

Dave Moran and John Finnegan – of the Leinster and Munster Senior Leagues respectively – were also elected. 

Work will now begin on the appointing of the four independent directors. 

“There’s a lot more stability than there was at the outset”, said Conway, “so I think it’s fair to say the organisation has stabilised.

“We’ll get to work very quickly – beginning with a meeting on Tuesday – on getting the final four members of the full board.”

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from the FAI AGM, Trim

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