The Chair of RTÉ has resigned overnight, pushing the FAI difficulties with the Public Accounts Committee down this morning’s bulletins.

When your questions are over a payment of €11,000 that has been repaid, it looks relatively modest beside exit packages amounting to €450,000 that have, or maybe have not, or maybe have been partially approved in the right manner.

We hold our leaders in the public sphere to a high standard, higher than is the case in the normal course of everyday life where doing a good job is deemed sufficient and doing everything, always, 100 per cent the way it should be is a bonus.

Public service has become less and less attractive to the kinds of imaginative and inspiring individuals that we would benefit from being in positions of the greatest influence.

The person who can thread the eye of a needle in terms of solving a problem or designing a new initiative might not be the one who thinks about every email and makes sure that every single right procedure is adhered to. The reality is that in 99 per cent of cases, it doesn’t matter.  That is not to give carte blanche to mistakes.  Once they are owned and learned from then that is what matters.

This does not include wilful deceit or greed at the expense of others. Those are generally cumulative behaviours and have no place in the ranks of those providing the services that we the public demand and deserve for the taxes we pay.

Decision making

My Dad always told me that when you are facing a choice or a challenge, a horizon where two pathways diverge and you are not sure which one is best, you should take out a blank sheet of paper, turn off all distractions and write down a list of pros and cons for each.

It is rare that there will only be one column with any thoughts in it, but it has served me well down the years in the simple act of decision-making around the big and sometimes the small choices.

In today’s social media and phone-in radio driven media, it is a rarity to think downstream before a rant.

Across media last night phrases like “a disgrace”, “an insult to all the kids and the volunteers making football happen”, “absolutely no trust”, and a lot worse were being bandied about.

Blood in the water

TD Paul McAuliffe sensed a trickle of blood in the water yesterday when FAI President Paul Cooke would only express confidence in the Leadership, rather than specifically in the CEO. Independent Chair Tony Keohane applied a plaster when he did back Jonathan Hill as did Catherine Guy.

It raised the unspoken question of whether Jonathan Hill will remain in his position.

So out came the blank sheet of paper and I began to write out the reasons why the FAI has benefitted from his tenure and the reasons why it would be better for him to leave.

The list on the left was easy to populate thinking back on an eventful period since he took over in October 2020.

The FAI at the time was on life support after the travails of the final years of the John Delaney leadership, the ripping apart of football’s credibility and the impact of Covid.

“I am greatly looking forward to working with the staff, the wider football community, our commercial stakeholders and the Government moving forward, driving the development of football at every level within Ireland, overseeing the ongoing process of business transformation within the organisation and, of course, facing the challenges that Covid presents for our game,” he said at the time of his appointment.


The CEO role is one of leadership, building up a team and a sense of purpose among existing and new staff that will move an organisation in the right direction.

Where we have come in three and a bit years has been relentlessly in the right direction.

The governance issues and the lengthy list of remedial measures demanded by political and financial backers in saving the Association have been met, not quite in full, but in ways that looked at the time as though they would be onerous if not almost impossible.

We have a gender-balanced board, mandated by the Government, which required the resignation of the Independent Chair to create space for additional women to be elected but which has been delivered.

There is a comprehensive strategic plan to reshape the facilities in which the sport is played to a level above and beyond our equivalent size neighbours and rivals in football.

There is a Player Development Programme that will take a decade to instil but which will leave a pathway that will make us better at producing male and female footballers who are capable of springing a surprise at major tournaments, like Croatia in most recent memory, and at expecting rather than hoping for qualification to those tournaments.

We have been part of a bid to win the hosting of the Euro 2028 Finals, with games being played in Dublin and we have been awarded the staging of this year’s Europa League Final.

The SSE Airtricity League of Ireland is as strong as it has been in living memory and a record-high number of people attended last November’s Sports Direct FAI Cup Final. The look and feel of the League is modern and lively, encouraging young fans to take an interest.

We have signed a deal with Castore as a kit partner which is the biggest ever and we have signed and extended new and existing partnerships that once looked like exiting.

Our Women’s senior team has qualified for a first-ever World Cup, played in front of 36,000 fans at the Aviva Stadium and risen to the highest level of the UEFA Nations League.

A record number of Season tickets were sold for 2024, despite there being no competitive games announced during the sale window and a senior men’s team that had disappointed in terms of their results

The list goes longer and deeper but the general sense is that we have come back from a very dark place and are in good shape for the future.

On the right-hand side of my page are the performance of the men’s senior team, and the sense that the senior manager position and transition could have been handled differently.

There were similar wounds created during the transition between Vera Pauw and Eileen Gleeson on the Women’s side.

There has been the overpayment of €11,000 and how that arose in the first place.

There is the sense that political and perhaps internal forces are angling for a departure and that this is damaging the stability of the Association that has been righted but is still precarious with €40 million plus of debt.

Hassle and Pressure

Jonathan Hill is very highly regarded internationally and with a young family living in England, he may wake up one morning and decide that the hassle and pressure, and the strain it undoubtedly brings, is just not worth it anymore.

The level of intrusion and questioning of motive and action is at a higher level than less than a handful of us will ever face. We all strive for a balance between what we do and how we live. The scales for those in the public spotlight tilt too far to the one side of that.

Yes they are, and he is, well paid but money isn’t everything in life, and we live in a society which has chosen to work under the capitalist philosophy that there are hierarchies of pay and position.

I hope that Jonathan Hill stays.

He has put in the hard yards of recovery and led a team that has delivered a blueprint for the people who play and the places they play to be significantly better than we have ever previously imagined.

As a former Commercial Director of Euro 1996, he is well placed to lead through a phase of football in Ireland that we have never navigated before.

I hope that the rumoured deal for sponsorship with a major international brand can be nudged over the line and the new manager of the senior team can be appointed so that those hot-button issues can be taken off the agenda for media and political engagements, as well as bar room and sideline conversations.

There has been no call on TV from the Minister to meet in the morning and no overt demands for him to step down but in the ripples of sporting rumour and the swirling shouting ground of social media, the question is out there.

If he chooses to go his own head space will be better and that is important on a human level. But then again he may be cut from a cloth that does not want to leave a job unfinished and is willing to live with rocks and the rumours for a while longer yet.

Regardless the sun will rise each morning and the world will keep turning. There will be some wins and losses, some progress and some setbacks. If a successor is needed there are good people with vision and purpose that can fill the space.

But as I take another glance at the list of pros and cons, I hope he will remain for a while yet and continue to lead further and further from the historic mess he inherited.


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