The Board of Sport Ireland met on Friday and confirmed afterwards that no money was going to be made available to the FAI until reform measures had been passed at a special EGM which would need to be held before the end of this month.
The Board of Sport Ireland welcomed the clear and unambiguous confirmation from Ministers in the first week of their appointment that the new Government has no intention of entering into any discussions with the FAI or other stakeholders on the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in January 2020.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the Board “recognised and endorsed recent progress made by the FAI to improve key aspects of its governance and internal control environment.”
It also “agreed that the relevant rule and constitutional changes committed to by the FAI are required to be implemented in line with the MOU prior to a release of grant funding.”
“The FAI were weeks away from insolvency at the start of this year,” said Sport Ireland Chair Kieran Mulvey.
“In late January 2020, the future of Irish football was secured when the Government, UEFA and Bank of Ireland agreed a vital funding arrangement to save the FAI. This multi-stakeholder recovery plan hinges on the FAI delivering absolutely essential governance reforms in the coming weeks.”
“Sport Ireland has not paid out any of the €5.8m grant funding to the FAI in 2020 to date,” confirmed CEO John Treacy.
“Furthermore, no funding is scheduled to be paid in advance of the FAI’s EGM.”
“To avail of the funding support, the FAI is aware of the need to make the essential amendments to its rules and constitution in line with its commitments in the MOU.”
“These changes are also required as a pre-requisite to the FAI applying to Sport Ireland for any portion of the additional €70 million of new Government funding to support the sports sector through the COVID-19 crisis.”
“It is important that we look forward to a re-invigoration of Irish football and a time when funding can be restored to support the vital work at community level and developing the game at all levels.”
The FAI AGM was due to have taken place in Galway on July 25th but earlier this month it was announced that this would be postponed until September ‘in line with Covid-19 restrictions’ and to enable time for Grant Thornton to prepare Accounts for the year.
It was stated that an EGM would be held in order to advance a number of governance issues including the extension of the items of the interim board.
This has proven to be a point of contention within the Association where there is a strongly held belief in some quarters that handing over effective control to what certain elements see as ‘non-football’ interests would be wrong.
In effect, these ‘non-football’ people are actually better described as merely having come to the sport without serving time in committee rooms and at different levels of the sports administration.
Given the perception of the administration of the sport and how it was allowed to be taken over in a manner that was no conducive to governance best practice, this is a feeling which is unlikely to cut much ice with Government or those who are now holding the purse strings.
The argument may return that it is giving away control of the sport in a manner that UEFA and FIFA would find unacceptable but the sense coming out from Switzerland seems to be that this is a problem which they would rather be resolved rather than a point of principle on which they are willing to stand, as may have been the case prior to details emerging of how the FAI was being run.
It is expected that an EGM will be called and held inside the next ten days.