Oh dear. There were only 89 votes to be cast but when the technology failed or failed to be accessed by the delegates over email, the vote to ratify five directors of the FAI had to be suspended, to be recast at a later time.
The FAI AGM was held virtually last night to give a better chance of reaching the required quorum of delegates in what were difficult weather and travel conditions.
The purpose was really just to ratify the directors that had been nominated by the Professional Football Chamber in Niamh O’Mahony, the Scholls FAI in Tom Browne, and by the Nominations Committee to allow Robert Watt, Packie Bonner, and Gary Twohig to sit on the board as Independent Non-Executive Directors for a period of two years.
As media, we were allowed to observe events and there was the additional bonus for those in attendance of an end-of-year update on the progress of the FAI’s strategy from Jonathan Hill and the finances up to the end of October from soon to depart Finance director Alex O’Connell.
Both reports were open and honest with the Women’s Qualification for the World Cup; a pending kit deal that will be the biggest in the history of the association; and the sale of 23,000 season tickets for next year the notable highlights, and the ongoing search for a sponsor for the Men’s Senior team still unresolved due to ‘softer’ economic conditions an obvious low.
It wouldn’t be a sporting AGM without a few grievances to be aired and these centred on the reason for the adjourned AGM and the need to get to five female directors by the end of next year in order to satisfy Government demands for gender balance within leadership groups, and in the words of Jonathan Hill, “because it is the right thing to do.”
This was recognised at the AGM in July which was heading towards the renewal of five directors, all male, and going into the final year of the deadline with only two Women on the board, Catherine Guy and Liz Joyce.
More talking needed to be done and so the AGM was adjourned. When delegates last night got their chance to ask questions there were some about the delayed first sitting of the underage committee but most were about what was being done to ensure the 40 percent target would be met.
Chair Roy Barrett fielded these by saying that discussions had and were continuing to take place and that it would happen. Pressed again he gave the same answer.
The reality is that it needed three of the male directors to willingly step down and for female directors to be willing to step up and either be elected through the different strands of the football family or to be nominated as the best candidates to serve as independent directors.
‘Take One for the Team’
To persuade or to have three directors out of ten recognise this and ‘take one for the team’ has only seemed to register with Richard Shakespeare from the Professional game. The UCD Secretary and Deputy CEO of Dublin City Council had and could deliver real benefit to the workings of the Board but the demands of the day job and an acceptance that someone had to do it saw him step down and Niamh O’Mahony be elected to fill his position.
President Gerry McAnaney invited each of last night’s five candidates to take a minute (which was taken as an Irish minute) to state their case for why they as individuals should be voted onto the board either for the first time in O’Mahony’s case or for a renewal of their term in the case of the other four.
All gave very good reasons for their being elected, there is no suggestion that they are not very good candidates.
The issue is though that four are male and their two-year term will now extend beyond the deadline for gender balance. That means in order to comply, two out of the remaining five men on the board will have to step down.
Each of them in turn has either been nominated for the position from within their strand of the game or stepped up as an independent. The five in the spotlight, should the vote proceed and the five from last night be appointed, are Gerry McAnaney, Roy Barrett, Paul Cooke, John Finnegan, and Joe O’Brien.
And that is based on Guy and Joyce continuing to serve.
Perhaps there will be an accommodation found and an extension given. As Jonathan Hill pointed out five of the eleven senior management positions are now held by women so there is no hidden agenda to maintain gender inequality.
The FAI is also not the only sporting body in the crosshairs. The IRFU and the GAA have serious issues of their own in this regard and no easy solution with the clock ticking ever faster.
Last night was supposed to be a step forward and a breather over the break to take stock and continue the conversations. Instead, it has left five positions on the board yet to be filled, and another opportunity to beat up the Association over a technical issue that had been tested and tested and tested but failed when it was needed.
Gerry McEnaney’s bidding good night to everyone after the guts of three hours had a whiff of exasperation about it, but so it goes and on it goes, until the next time.