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Dublin: 22 °C Tuesday 23 July, 2019

Uefa president told me Noel Mooney was 'absolutely' FAI's choice - Shane Ross

The Sports Minister has been highly critical of the arrival of a former FAI employee.

File photo of Noel Mooney.
File photo of Noel Mooney.
Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

SPORTS MINISTER SHANE Ross has claimed he has been told by Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin that Noel Mooney was “absolutely, unequivocally” the FAI’s choice for the role of the Association’s General Manager on a temporary, six-month basis. 

Ross has been highly critical of Mooney’s appointment, given his past links with the Association. 

Mooney, a former FAI employee who now works as a marketing manager with Uefa, begins a six-month secondment at Abbottstown on Monday. 

“I spoke to him [Ceferin] on the telephone last week, on a very bad line to Baku”, Ross told the media after today’s football stakeholders’ forum in Dublin’s Mansion House.  

It was a very bad line, it was out in Baku, and it was a very short conversation. And what he said was that, yes, the FAI had picked Noel Mooney. The reason I made contact with Ceferin as to find out exactly what was going on, and what the truth of the matter was. I wanted to find out who had made the appointment, and where the initiative came from.

“Even on a very bad line, I did ascertain that. But I want to talk to him further about ancillary matters.

“They were obviously prepared to release him, but they made it absolutely clear that it was the FAI that made the appointment. Absolutely, without a doubt, unequivocally.”

The minister demurred when asked if the FAI had been misleading over the level of Uefa input into Mooney’s selection. 

Aleksander Čeferin Aleksander Ceferin. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Well, I think I’d have to leave that to your judgement, but it was certainly clarified at our meeting with the FAI as well, that it was the FAI who made that decision.”

Mooney is a former League of Ireland goalkeeper and was once an employee of the FAI’s – he worked in a marketing role for the League of Ireland before joining Uefa in 2011.

When working at the FAI Mooney had close ties with then-CEO John Delaney, whom he described as an “inspiration.” Mooney was also a guest at the FAI AGM in 2017, where he congratulated the FAI as a “super federation.”

Ross wrote an op-ed scathing of Mooney in last week’s Sunday Independent, writing that his close ties to the previous regime made him “one of the last people on God’s earth suitable for this job”, adding that “there is no going back for the FAI. Going to Noel Mooney is going back to the dark ages.”

He reiterated that stance today, saying that “this isn’t actually consistent with the reform agenda which we’re pursuing.”

Ross was unwilling to recommend an alternative to Mooney. 

“I’m certainly not going to identify anybody and it’s not up to me to do that. What I do want to do is see somebody who’s independent, I want to see a proper process for appointing somebody in the FAI.

“As long as they’re independent and there’s a proper process seen to be visibly independent, I think that would be adequate. What is not acceptable is that someone who’s got very strong past or present links with the FAI should be appointed.”

In a statement issued this evening, the Board of the FAI say they note Ross’ comments and his “acknowledgement of the autonomy of the FAI” on the matter. 

“The Board of the FAI also notes all comments made today by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross.

“The employment of any person by the FAI is a matter for the FAI and the Board welcomes the Minister’s acknowledgement of the autonomy of the FAI in this regard.”

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Gavin Cooney

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