Tuesday 15 October 2019

FAI revamp now in chaos as SFAI promise 'no' vote

UNDER PRESSURE: FAI President Donal Conway. Pic: Sportsfile
UNDER PRESSURE: FAI President Donal Conway. Pic: Sportsfile

The FAI's plans to revamp their structures have been thrown into turmoil as the influential schoolboys block have said they will not vote for change unless they are guaranteed a seat on the association's board.

"If we don't have an automatic seat on the board we will reject this FAI document, it's as simple as that," was the message last night from SFAI Executive Committee member Tony Gains.

FAI president Donal Conway and interim general manager are on a month-long roadshow to try and convince the different parts of what they call the "football family" to accept the proposals for change made by the FAI's Governance Review Group.

The key elements of that review would drastically change the shape of the FAI board, with four independent directors, at least four female members of a 12-person board, and an expanded senior council with seats given to bodies currently not represented, such as supporters' groups, player representatives and the Women's National League clubs.

Under the plan, the powerful Schoolboys FAI (SFAI) would no longer be certain of a seat on the board but would have one on a rotating basis with representatives of the women's game, leading to a potential eight-year wait for an SFAI voice at board level.

The proposals to change the FAI structure will be voted on at the FAI's AGM in Trim on July 27th and they need a two-thirds majority to get the plan passed. The SFAI will have 36 delegates eligible to vote at the AGM and they could block the entire process.

Two weeks ago, SFAI chairman and FAI director John Earley resigned from the FAI board in protest at the planned changes, and there was more anger vented at FAI plans at the SFAI's AGM on Saturday. "The main issue is that the SFAI have 120,000 kids playing football in Ireland and we're not guaranteed a place on the board. The mood within the room was that, as we are the biggest affiliate in the FAI, our representation on the board is poor, compared to the National League.

"We said that to Donal Conway that for the Schoolboys to support this, they have to be guaranteed a seat on the board," said Gains, the NDSL's representative on the SFAI's executive committee.

"His answer to that was that the document was not going to be changed. But this plan will be rejected by the SFAI at the FAI AGM. A lot of people are very unhappy."

A gripe at schoolboy level will be the power held by other sections of the game, especially at League of Ireland level, on a new-look FAI Senior Council

"We are the biggest affiliate of the FAI and we are being squeezed out. When they were looking at the governance of the FAI where one affiliate, the LOI, have 20 votes and we have four at the moment.

''That's a huge disparity and where are the LOI clubs going to get all their players?

"From schoolboy football, of course, but we have no say in what happens in the FAI and it's a huge issue around the country. We want to have a voice on the board," added Gains.

FAI president Conway, who has stated his intention to stay on the board of directors on a one-year term after the AGM, appealed to SFAI delegates on Saturday to get on board with the restructuring plan.

When the FAI published the Governance review last month, Conway made it clear there was "no Plan B" and there was just one way forward. Now, they may need a Plan B.

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