The Board of the FAI will meet today looking to move on to matters of the future rather than the past after the reform agenda and release of Government funding were approved last night at what turned out to be a less abrasive EGM than had been expected a month ago.
Changes to the ability of long-standing members of the FAI Council to remain in place, for a period of two years, and the switch of a casting vote from the Chairman, an independent, to Gerry McEnaney, born of the ‘football family,’ turned out to be enough to take the steam out of valid continued concerns over making sure that the FAI performs to the best of its ability.
The money will start to flow from Sport Ireland in ‘a week to ten days’, and that together with arrangements with the Bank of Ireland will enable the business of the FAI to continue.
It is hard to fully escape the past though and Chairman Roy Barrett was cast into the uncomfortable spotlight last night as he was questioned over the fact that the recruitment consultants charged with filling his position had been recommended to speak to him by Patrick Kennedy, Governor of the Bank of Ireland.
The issue was raised during the EGM but while Barrett last night expressed his surprise that it was a matter of some concern; the court of public opinion, buoyed by taking out those who had golfed and dined in Clifden two weeks ago; and stoked by a media driven by a desire for transparency and accountability, might yet see it differently.
The reality is that Barrett and Kennedy, as part of Ireland’s business elite will, naturally enough, have known each other over many years.
Anyone who has ever been approached by a headhunter will always be curious about who it is that has recommended them. We ask the question but we never expect the headhunter to tell us for fear of breaking confidentiality.
Recruitment at this level is run on the basis of knowing who to speak to about what roles, and using absolute discretion when it comes to letting it be known who are the names in your list of contacts that have been able to guide you.
I have been on both sides as an advisor and as the one who is approached but in general, the recruiter will always assure that this is a conversation held in confidence.
We spoke to two prominent recruitment professionals late last night to ask their opinion and both expressed surprise that Barrett had been told he had been recommended by Kennedy. It is likely now that both men will regret the asking of the question and the giving of the answer.
The problem is that the public does not necessarily feel comfortable with the idea of a gilded circle passing on nudges towards their friends putting them forward for jobs.
It does not look great in the spotlight and while Gerry McEnaney said at the press conference last night that he was satisfied with Barrett’s explanation, it is likely to arise for discussion at the Board today.
If the pressure builds and Barrett decides that he does not want to remain under that intense public scrutiny, even if it is just for working in the tried and tested behaviours of the business world, then it will be another blow for the FAI, just at the time when they should be looking forward.
The sight of this public opinion at full throttle veering again towards Abbotstown will perhaps also give pause to those who are reported to be down to the last few in the running to take over the role of permanent CEO.
In order to get deals done, you have to be willing to make a deal and to be versed in the intricacies of doing so at the highest level.
Sometimes it is not always as clean and simple as we would like it to be. No laws are broken, nobody is hurt but the negotiation can sometimes demand a little more inside knowledge than would be the norm. Inside knowledge, by definition, comes best to those who are operating on the inside.
Last night should have been a big win for the FAI. It has not been that simple throughout, however, and today the questions will continue to circle around the players in this most intriguing of all sporting power plays.