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Noel Mooney 'categorically rules out' extending stay with the FAI

The interim General-Manager is leaving as planned as the FAI announce a series of delays to ongoing reform steps.

Noel Mooney speaks to the media at Abbottstown today.
Noel Mooney speaks to the media at Abbottstown today.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE FAI’S INTERIM General-Manager Noel Mooney has categorically ruled out extending his stay with the Irish football body beyond 30 November. 

Mooney is employed by Uefa, but moved to Dublin on a six-month secondment earlier this year to help the beleaguered FAI liaise with Uefa and begin to move on from the crisis that has engulfed them from March. 

With state funding suspended, the FAI are being kept afloat by the early drawdown of funds from Uefa. 

Mooney, however, is due to return to Switzerland on 1 December and has ruled out extending his stay with the FAI. 

“We haven’t discussed it and all intentions are to return to Uefa on the 1 December. I can categorically rule out [staying on for longer]“, he told the media at a press conference today. 

The FAI have yet to begin the process of recruiting a new Chief Executive/General-Manager, and it looks highly unlikely that the process will be completed by the time Mooney departs at the end of next month.  

FAI President Donal Conway said that the FAI will seek an interim solution should that come to pass, forcing the Association to a third interim CEO of 2019. Chief Operating Officer Rea Walshe took up the interim CEO role in March when John Delaney stepped into the Executive Vice-President role, although Conway said today that neither she nor anyone else has been sounded out for the role. 

The FAI are not beginning the recruitment process for a new CEO until they appoint four independent directors to the board. Their appointment is one of several next steps to be running behind schedule, as the board told an FAI Council meeting at Abbottstown today. 

Independent recruitment firm Amrop have whittled down a shortlist of candidates for the four positions, and have handed them to the FAI’s Nominations Committee, who will decide on who is appointed. President Donal Conway and board member Dick Shakespeare represent the FAI on the Committee and are joined by two Sport Ireland nominees – former athlete Olive Loughnane and Peter McLoone, an industrial relations expert who has previously mediated pay disputes at the FAI. The Committee is completed by Amrop nominee Christina Kenny. 

The FAI say the directors will be appointed in the next few weeks. 

There are delays on many of the other steps the FAI are taking to restore state funding. The independent KOSI audit, commissioned by Sport Ireland to assess the FAI’s fitness to handle public funds, was initially meant to be delivered earlier this month, but is now expected to be delivered by the end of November. 

This has led to a delay in the production of the 2018 accounts, with the reconvened AGM to allow that set for the end of November or the beginning of December. 

An initial report from the Mazars review, meanwhile, which the FAI had hoped to produce at July’s AGM, is also expected by the end of November.

“[The delays] are not affecting the lack of renewal in the Association”, said Conway. “They are not in our control, the delay is not of our making and not a refusal on our part to deal with the issues. It would suit us much, much better if KOSI was out and Mazars had published an interim report.” 

Earlier this month, the FAI requested that a 16 October invite to appear before the Oireachtas Sport Committee be postponed, and say they will accept another invitation only when these reviews and audits are completed. 

All of these steps are being taken to convince Sport Ireland and the Department of Sport that the FAI’s governance structures have been improved to the point that state funding should be restored. 

Although Sports minister Shane Ross has been a vocal critic of the continued involvement of both Noel Mooney and Donal Conway, the latter was reticent to be drawn into a direct response. 

donal-conway Donal Conway. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“The correlation here is with real progress with governance and the resumption of funding. The personal side of it, I’m not interested in. I think all of this should be de-personalised. I talk to Sport Ireland regularly, there are key milestones we must pass before there will be a resumption of funding.” 

Conway was also reluctant to talk too much about now-former CEO and Executive VP John Delaney, but says that his sense is that Sport Ireland and the government have welcomed clarity on the situation. 

“It’s very difficult for me to talk about the John Delaney situation. I’m not trying to be evasive, but it is, it’s a confidential arrangement.

“I don’t go talking to government specifically about this, be it the Department or Sport Ireland, but my sense is that it is welcomed that there has been a termination and separation between the Association and the former CEO.” 

The ODCE investigation into the FAI continues. The FAI recently submitted 10,048 documents to the corporate watchdog, but will go to the High Court on 14 November to claim privilege over two documents within that bundle, citing the fact they contain legal advice given to the FAI. 

The FAI also announced today that Larry Bass of Cabinteely FC and Shelbourne’s Andrew Doyle have been appointed to the Association’s Finance Committee. 

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from FAI HQ, Abbottstown

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