FAI Future One Step Closer

The EGM of the FAI on Saturday passed the rules and regulation changes necessary to adopt sweeping structural change at next weekend’s AGM by a massive majority.

That gives an indication, though not a certainty, that the 78 recommendations of the Governance Review Group will be adopted and a new chapter in the administration of football in Ireland can be commenced.

It does not suggest that the problems which have arisen over the past number of years will magically disappear and the AGM will have to adjourn next week until later in the year when the accounts for the year have been completed and signed off.

The FAI does appear to be standing firm behind the nomination of Donal Conway as the sole candidate for Presidency albeit just for one year as part of a transition to the new board.

The letter received from the Secretary General’s of UEFA and FIFA on Friday night makes it hypersensitive that a change in that position would be seen as a direct influence from Government and result in the possible suspension of the Republic of Ireland from international football.

The repercussions that could have on football and the staging of four matches of the Euro 2020 Finals here make it a potential sticking point for Government and politicians that may have to be set to one side in pursuit of the bigger picture of a long term fit for purpose organisation.

Minister Shane Ross was interviewed on RTÉ after the EGM and said that he was disappointed in the decision of Conway to go forward but stopped short of reiterating his insistence on his stepping aside as a precursor to the restoration of Government funding.

Total regime change was the call when the Olympic Council of Ireland went through a similar process thirty months ago. It emerged with Sarah Keane as President despite having been a member of the Council for two years and William Kennedy holding onto the treasurer’s role despite having been there since 1992.

It was the change that Keane, in particular, drove with the largely new board that really mattered and the Olympic Federation of Ireland is now in a strong place with regard to its own performance and its standing in Government circles.

It is entirely possible that the current financial investigations underway at the FAI will unearth even greater potential wrongdoing than is currently known about but at least the process of reform to prevent similar misuse in the future is now moving forward.

What the makeup of a new board and the structural committees proposed will look like in terms of personnel are not yet known and will not yet even be confirmed until the votes take place at the FAI AGM next weekend.

This raft of potential changes were welcomed by the Government, UEFA and FIFA when they were published last month and are the single most pressing element of reform to be on everyone’s agenda at the moment.

The other main point to arise from the press conference which followed the EGM was the ongoing financial standing of the FAI. Negotiations with UEFA about ongoing funding are continuing but are not anticipated to be complete until after the AGM and are running in parallel to the investigations into financial matters being undertaken by KOSI on behalf of Sport Ireland, by Mazars on behalf of the FAI and by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

The reluctance of Conway to discuss the current state of the finances will be down to the insistence of UEFA who, while assured to be there as a backstop in financial terms, will not want the detail of any potential bailout package to be widely known for fear of possible ‘contagion’ across other member states who may face similar financial shortfalls.

The Government funding through Sport Ireland represents five per cent of the FAI’s income.

It’s importance though is greater than that absolute number in terms of supporting grassroots football, and programmes aimed at disadvantaged groups including through local authorities, and as part of the successful Football For All programmes.

We understand that part of the ongoing financial negotiations are seeking to shore up the areas where the loss of Sport Ireland funding will be most keenly felt, but that if cuts are coming they may fall hardest in this area.

Tomorrow the FAI will publish the result of a major research project into the Social Return on Investment in football as part of the Festival of Football taking place across County Meath as part of the run-up to the AGM.

It will no doubt be another week of significant twists and turns but one that will hopefully end with a clearer picture on a better future, even if that does have some remaining threads linking it to the past.

Read More: FIFA Steps Firmly into FAI Crisis

Image Credit: Ryan Byrne, Inpho.ie

Similar Articles