Over the weekend stories emerged of a letter from within the Schoolboys section addressed to UEFA and FIFA questioning the new approach and suggesting that it was motivated by political rather than footballing motives.
That may be a valid point but the fact is that the Association was clearly in need of a restart after the troubles of last year and the support of Government, Bank of Ireland and UEFA was a critical element in keeping it going.
“The Board of the Football Association of Ireland unanimously agreed at a meeting on Tuesday night to proceed with its plans to develop a strategy incorporating a planned restructuring of the Association, supported by the required constitutional reform for the benefit of everyone involved in football in Ireland,” read the statement.
“The Board is further committed to regaining the trust of the public and the key stakeholders who are supporting the Association to help them achieve that plan. The Board are further committed to implementing the highest standards of corporate governance and will ensure that all those involved in the game of football will be represented democratically in any future structure.”
“The Board of the FAI is available to engage in dialogue with any stakeholder with constructive input during this process, in the interest of developing and promoting the game in Ireland.”
“The Board will continue to work on charting a safe return to football and completing the process for the appointment of a CEO.”
Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport Shane Ross welcomed the commitment restating his position that Government support would not have been forthcoming without substantial change to the way in which things were being run.
The new independent Chair Roy Barrett, CEO Gary Owens and Deputy CEO Niall Quinn have made a start on the needed reforms but the impact of COVID-19 has thrown every possible timeframe up in the air, from Abbottstown to Leinster House and as far as football’s international governing bodies in Switzerland.
The letter from the Schoolboys Association muddied the waters but needed to be rebutted quickly in order to prevent any further damage to Ireland’s standing with UEFA and FIFA, upon both of whom the short, medium and long term future of the sport here is heavily dependent.
Movement is needed but is happening and the coming weeks will be critical.
According to the memorandum of understanding that led to the Government resue package, the current President and Board is only in place until July when a new AGM will have to be convened and new elections held. The appointment of the final independent director has yet to be confirmed and is now unlikely prior to the next stage of reform.
Whether that will still happen in July is subject to what happens in the bigger picture of reopening the country after the pandemic.
Big questions on and off the field but the statement of the board is important in keeping all the stakeholders involved in football, or at least the majority of them, onside.
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“Fair play you are doing a brilliant job of keeping us all informed and motivated”