FAI Plans Hit Late Night Hitch

The day started out as a well-choreographed back up to the previous night’s letter outlining why it was important for football to pull together and approve the agreement from January that triggered funds of €52.5 million from Bank of Ireland and kept the FAI solvent.

Without agreement at the FAI EGM on August 31st, a litany of disaster would fall upon the sport ranging from non-affiliation to UEFA, the loss of the Aviva Stadium, job losses across the sport and what might have been included as a plague of locusts.

Interim CEO and Deputy CEO Gary Owens and Niall Quinn sat under the pictures of predecessors in the role of FAI Presidents that never had to face the kind of doomsday scenario now facing the organisation they left behind.

They gave a strong performance, outlining a number of areas which we had not had full sight of before, including the breakdown of the funding and how the supposed Niall Quinn Visionary Group had never really existed beyond a one-off coming together with an SSE Airtricity league proposal.

Clarity and communication, backed up by the threat of an ultimate end game suggested that Friday’s gathering of the FAI Council might have huffed and puffed but they could not blow down the house that has been constructed from the rubble of the previous administration.

If we’ve learned one thing from the FAI story though it is that no day is done until all the lights have been switched off.

A late evening ping of the email revealed a note from FAI Vice President Paul Cooke, Owen’s immediate predecessor in the interim CEO role, which questioned elements of what had been said only hours before.

“The Elected Directors wish to state on the record that they did not approve the MoU before it was signed, therefore Mr MacSharry’s statement is correct.”

“The facts are that they only received a draft copy of the MoU at 9.02 am on the 30th January and immediately raised concerns regarding some of the conditions with the Chairman and received no reply.”

The elected directors, numbering eight, have called on Owens to clarify the remarks that were made and so the anger and frustration bubbles to the fore once more.

This will now be a key element of Friday’s meeting where trust and genuine engagement with all stakeholders will be seen to be on the line.

The Memorandum of Understanding was created in the heat of the previous minister Shane Ross standing his ground on ‘new faces’.  Now that he has gone there may be some rowing back on that with suggestions yesterday that a maximum ten year limit on service could actually be recast with the passing of a fit and proper test as per FIFA regulations.

Peace will eventually break out and football will eventually get back to being played on the pitch as opposed to the boardroom.

There are a few blasts left yet though before that happens.



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