The FAI was back in the crosshairs of the political establishment yesterday with the Government insisting on the need for an EGM this month and approval of reform markers including the approval of a board comprising six independent members.
They did so through Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan in response to questions from Fianna Fáil TD Marc McSharry who was voicing concerns circulating around the sport questioning the authority of the interim Board.
If Government was to pull back it would be a disaster for the Association which would be cut off from Government support through Sport Ireland once again, including having no access to the share of €40 million set aside for the three major field sports as part of the Government €70 million fund for sport to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
The changes demanded as part of the agreement on funding reached in January require 75 per cent approval by an EGM, necessitated by the delay in holding an AGM due again to COVID-19.
Interim Chairman of the FAI issued a stinging personal response late last night to what McSharry had said in the Convention Centre yesterday.
As Chairperson of the Board of the Football Association of Ireland, I note the comments made in Dail Eireann today by Fianna Fail TD Marc MacSharry.
Firstly, I would like to put on public record my disappointment that Deputy MacSharry would make the following statement using Dail privilege: ‘Instead of the corruption of the past, it will be a new form of corruption’. I find it objectionable that a Deputy would use Dail privilege to make a statement like that without fear of reproach.
I would also like to inform Deputy MacSharry of the facts surrounding the vote taken on March 16th last by Council on a Proposed Resolution. The ballot paper presented to Council members read as follows:
That pursuant to Article 3.8 of the Association’s Articles of Association, that the Association and the Board of Management be and is hereby authorised by the Council to
(a) enter into the Amended Facility Agreement and any related documents, to borrow in excess of €1,270,000 under the Amended Facility Agreement to refinance certain existing obligations owing to BOI and to fund certain other general corporate working capital and other obligations of the
(b) to incur the other borrowings contemplated by the Transaction to fund
general working capital and other requirements of the Association and
(c) to have sole power and authority to decide and agree the terms of the Amended Facility Agreement and any other agreements required to give effect to the Transaction and any related documents, and the terms of such borrowings.
On March 16th, the Council of the FAI, in a vote taken by email and observed by an independent third party, voted in favour of this resolution – 60 members of the 79-strong Council voted in favour of the proposed resolution, with no votes against.
As the Deputy can see here, point (b) of the proposed resolution asked members to permit the Association and the Board of Management to: ‘Incur the other borrowings contemplated by the Transaction to fund general working capital and other requirements of the Association’.
The proposal, as accepted by Council on March 16th, gave the FAI full authority to pursue funding arrangements agreed with Government and the Association’s banking partner. No funds were drawn down from any of the parties involved before that Council vote.
It is respectfully suggested that Deputy MacSharry checks his facts before he next decides to use Dail privilege.
As Chairperson of the Board of the FAI, I remain committed to the roadmap for the reform of the Association, the continued viability of the FAI, to improving the working environment for all our employees, to provide the support required by all of those engaged in the game of football at all levels across the country and to all those supporters who just want to make our game better.
I am available to receive any constructive input from any stakeholder.
The temperature is rising across the sport with questions being asked of whether it is right to ‘cede’ control of football matters to individuals that may have strong credentials but have not risen through the traditional channels that have provided for leadership in the past.
This remains a delicate balancing act where governance needs to be dramatically improved, independence needs to be maintained in the eyes of UEFA and FIFA, and the challenges of running the sport need to be met.
There is also an element of some punishment needing to be meted out to those who were there during the tenure of John Delaney as CEO and who failed in a variety of ways to challenge the wrongs which were done and are now the subject of Garda and ODCE investigation.
Sport is about passion, but there are times when that needs to be managed and cooler heads allowed to navigate what remains a very twisting path back to public trust.