Spotlight on FAI Testing Decision

On Friday the FAI’s chosen headhunters for the position of CEO published an advertisement for the role.

Since then the organisation has taken two body blows that will make it a tougher decision than might otherwise have been the case to put their names forward.

On Sunday it emerged that the contract for testing of players ahead of a potential return to play had been awarded to a company where the Medical Director of the FAI Alan Byrne was a Director.

Then last night the four clubs involved in a potential return to action as part of UEFA Club Competition rejected a plan whereby they would share some of the money they would get for competing with other clubs to lessen the blow of a return to the SSE Airtricity league behind closed doors.

Meetings will continue today with the FAI in order to break the impasse that has prevented a scheduling of this return, the absence of which will come into sharper focus again on Wednesday with the return of the English Premier League to our screens.

In relation to the medical testing this is a contentious area. The story was carried by John Greene in the Sunday Independent.

There is no question that the procurement process undertaken under new rules was anything other than copper fastened in terms of honesty and transparency.

Alan Byrne had removed himself from any part in the submission of Advanced Medical Services to conduct the testing of players and officials, and from any part in the procurement process from the FAI’s perspective.

Perception is often as important as reality in the modern world however and especially so in areas of governance and the confidence of stakeholders.

Byrne is a highly respected member of the FAI team and has been to the fore as part of the Government appointed Expert Group on a Return to Sport.

As such it is inevitable that his services would be in demand across the medical community and there is no conflict in his acting in any capacity for Advanced medical Systems.

The company indicates on its website that it works with Munster Rugby, Sport Ireland, the Irish Defence Forces, Dell and Novartis.

It partners with Laya Healthcare and Spectrum Life and is clearly a leader in providing exactly the services that the FAI requires.

According to the FAI there were three submissions from the five companies that were approached as part of the procurement.

These will have had to be reviewed and scored on the basis of providing the best service at the best price.

The best person to run the rule over them would, without question, have been the FAI Medical Director but if he was recused then who completed the review?

Again, the likelihood is that this was done in exactly the right way with fully qualified people making the call.

The problem lies in the perception of an organisation emerging from the deep shadow of Governance shortcomings being seen to grant a six figure contract to a company which has personal links at a high level.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry was quoted in the Sunday independent as saying the decision “does not reflect well on the FAI in what is supposed to be a new era of progress and transparency.”

The world keep turning and the testing continues because getting sport back is a priority. All sporting organisations are struggling to make the right calls in areas where there is no playbook or precedent.

It’s just that the FAI has a bit more recent baggage to contend with in terms of the spotlight on all its decisions.

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