The headline read that Packie Bonner and Gerry McEnaney ‘Refused to Back Stephen Kenny’ at an FAI Press Conference yesterday. If you read just the headline and you might imagine that there are seeds of doubt over whether the Republic of Ireland manager will be given an extended contract at the end of this month.
It is little wonder then that Kenny himself discounts what he reads about his supposed security of tenure.
We were present at the press conference, for the release of an important UEFA statement on the value of football which we write about elsewhere this morning.
McEnaney was present in his capacity as President of the FAI and Bonner as a Director.
When the international manager’s position was first raised from the floor they both said clearly that they would not be discussing either the FAI’s or any personal position on that ahead of the planned Board review of the entire World Cup Campaign which will take place later this month.
They are two of the 12 Members of the FAI Board and the best practice of corporate governance dictates that a Board should act as a collective decision-making body, in the best interests of the organisation that they are charged with overseeing.
There is nothing at all wrong with asking the question, that is the role of a journalist.
Equally, there is nothing wrong with either of the individuals electing to keep their own counsel until they have had an opportunity to discuss it with their colleagues.
But mixing those two rights together and inferring a ‘refusal to back’ the manager is stretching the reality of what was said and in what context.
A paper does not refuse ink and in a competitive world, the spark of a refusal is better for click rates than a statement of the context in which the choice to not say anything was made.
To be fair most of the media present have replayed that as being the case.
The headlines from each of the mainstream media make for an interesting comparison.
“Packie Bonner refuses to endorse Stephen Kenny but points to ‘progress’” – Irish Times
“Packie Bonner parries questions on Stephen Kenny’s future” – Irish Examiner
“‘I’m not the Kenny kingmaker’ – Packie Bonner says new contract will be decided by FAI board” – Irish Independent
“FAI’s focus on courting investment as Bonner stays tight-lipped on Kenny’s future” – The 42.ie
“FAI Board ‘encouraged’ ahead of WCQ review and Kenny contract discussions” – RTE.ie
“Packie Tight-Lipped on Kenny” – Irish Daily Star
“Packie Warns Over Boss Deal” – Irish Daily Mirror
“Bonner Still Has His Eye on the Bigger Picture” – Irish Daily Mail
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The challenge of culling a story from the very briefest of collective engagements should not be underestimated. Bonner himself admitted that he had not seen any of the journalists present in the room for a long time.
He married an undimmed enthusiasm for the game, and the impact it can have in wider society, with a shrewd enough awareness that revealing too much of his personal thinking on the immediate story of the day would potentially be counterproductive.
We saw last week with the IRFU’s Anthony Eddy comments on the Irish Women’s Rugby team, that words can be powerful and not always in a positive way.
The FAI has been through the wringer over the last three years. Yesterday’s engagement with the Government and the results of the UEFA Social Impact research was a positive story but subsumed to a degree by the reflections on the World Cup campaign. That’s a shame, but the eyes do indeed need to be fixed on the bigger picture of the future of the game at every level, not just the Men;s international team management.
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