Governance Day for the FAI

It’s either the beginning of the end for the FAI’s Governance nightmare or perhaps more likely just the end of the beginning.

Either way at 11 o’clock this morning the Report of the Governance Review Group put in place by Sport Ireland and the FAI will be published online with the Chair of the group Aidan Horan, the President of the FAI Donal Conway and the Chair of Sport Ireland Kieran Mulvey facing the media at Abbottstown 60 minutes later.

There have been loaded hints and suggestions as to what it contains, at least in the headline of four women and four independent Directors on the Board and a recommendation that two of those currently in place remain so.

The first two will be widely applauded externally and the third decried but all, if they are in the final report, have merit.

Introducing Independent Directors is incredibly important and long overdue. It means though that not every sector of the football family will have a seat at the table. Fair enough to the outside world but try explaining the logic to groups that have served their time on every committee since hanging up their own boots and who believe if they are not at the top table then their section will only be getting crumbs.

It’s the double-edged sword of volunteerism. An expectation of privilege and influence in place of financial return. It wouldn’t be tolerated in the harder commercial world, it needs to be managed out of the sporting one while at the same time maintaining the knowledge and experience that comes with having ‘served your time.’

Our own submission, one of 125 that were made from the public to the review group, suggested that the FAI Council or a version of that was the appropriate place for the vested interests, and that’s not meant in a negative way, should be heard and represented.

The Board though has serious obligations.

Speaking at the recent Sport for Business Seminar on Sporting Governance Maura Quinn, CEO of the Institute of directors spoke of the three pillars of good governance.

“Accountability, transparency and probity are the three tenets of good governance in any sector,” she said.

The Board needs to stand at some remove from the day to day workings of the sport, both to give a sense of perspective but also to apply the right weight to the acceleration of growth when it’s needed, or putting a brake on things when it is needed but might not be obvious from within the bubble of the everyday.

In relation to Board members staying on, Minister Ross has said that is unacceptable but politics is about the art of the solution. Looking back to our latest skirmish with Governance, the Olympic Council of Ireland became the Olympic Federation of Ireland but that was only one element of the reform that swept through it, that saved it, and which was driven by Sarah Keane who was an impressive speaker at the FAI Stakeholders Forum which Minister Ross staged a few short weeks ago.

If the cry of ‘Off with their heads’ had applied to the Olympic movement then Keane would have been removed as well as Pat Hickey. Reform might have come but it was stronger for having her at the helm. History is a good teacher and we should heed the lessons of our own recent past.

We will discover later the roadmap of how we get from here and this report to its acceptance or otherwise at the AGM next month.

Will it be accepted in full as an essential step towards restored confidence from Government and Sport Ireland? Will it be presented as doing the right thing for the right reasons but not being seen as state interference by UEFA and FIFA?

There is a possibility that state funding could be restored this morning. This is the conclusion to Sport Ireland’s intervention on Governance. Could it be done ahead of the audit and financial reports that are underway?

It is the state-backed schemes under football for All, in disability and social inclusion that are most impacted. The longer they go unfunded the greater loss of goodwill that has been hard fought for over recent years, regardless of credit card statements or stadium debt.

It is more likely that this restoration will be held over as ‘encouragement’ for the sport to fully accept the need for change.

It may or may not be the right thing but it is the political thing and that holds sway.

There are 400,000 people involved in football across Ireland. It is the world’s sport and it has a huge part to play in how we see ourselves as a people. It is the sport that is more inclusive of race, religion and social standing than any other. It is important.

It is a shame that from that impassioned group there were only 125 submissions to the Governance Review Group. We can’t just rely on others to do things on our behalf then give out when it is not done to our own personal satisfaction.

Good people have contributed massive time and energy to fixing what needs to be fixed. Today we will see what their version of events and the potential strategy for making things right will be.

11 AM. It will be worth the read.


Image Credit: Inpho.ie

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