Tuesday 15 October 2019

Political talking points will set the mood

Top FAI officials refuse to answer any questions on former boss Delaney

Noel Mooney, FAI General Manager, on his way into the FAI EGM at Dunboyne Castle, Meath.
Noel Mooney, FAI General Manager, on his way into the FAI EGM at Dunboyne Castle, Meath.

After a traumatic spell for the game here, FAI delegates were summoned to Dunboyne Castle on Saturday for an Extraordinary General Meeting. It has turned out to be just another development in a seemingly never-ending period of crisis management.

What happened on Saturday?

FAI members voted through rulebook changes which will allow the 78 recommendations of the Governance Review Group report into their power structures to be implemented across the next two years.

What are the main changes?

This will alter the shape and profile of the main board and committees below it. The FAI board will now consist of 12 people with four independent members and at least four females - although the timeline for the latter target is two years.

The report recommends that gender balance is introduced at all of the committees below it.

Six other members will be appointed through football constituencies while a president and vice-president will fill the officer roles. An independent representative will chair meetings.

Sub committees reporting to the board will be divided more clearly into different spheres with one grouping looking at football matters and another into matters related to finances and auditing

Was the vote unanimous?

Nearly - 116 of the 120 members present voted 'yes' with two voting 'no' and two abstaining. One of the opponents objected to the age limit for Council membership being brought down from 75 to 70 again. The other had a technical problem with rule changes. It is worth noting that 202 people were eligible to vote which means there were 82 no-shows (seven sent formal apologies). The FAI say this is a good attendance by the standards of regular meetings.

How did the meeting go?

It was done and dusted slightly earlier than anticipated, with chief operating officer Rea Walshe, FAI president Donal Conway and the head of the Governance Review Group Aidan Horan all speaking from the top table.

Delegates described a cordial meeting.

Questions were invited on any matters related to the rules. The issue of how independent candidates would be appointed was raised - a nominations committee established.

It was later acknowledged in the FAI press conference that a number of EGMs are likely over the next 12 months to deal with further rule changes that will be required.

Was John Delaney mentioned?

His name was not raised from the floor and the FAI refused to answer a variety of questions related to Delaney in the post-EGM press conference.

What about Donal Conway's position?

The positive vote in favour of the reforms has strengthened Conway's conviction that he will seek to stay on as president as part of an interim board that will function for 12 months - despite Minister Shane Ross and Sport Ireland representatives expressing their preference that he would stand down. The GRG report advocates up to two current board members staying on for the sake of continuity. Vice-president Noel Fitzroy is also running again, but he does have opposition ahead of Saturday's AGM - unlike Conway.

What is to stop Conway staying on?

He says this is a one-year-only deal and addressed this specific point on Saturday evening. "I've made it very clear to Sport Ireland that this (running again) is a decision in respect to the interim board."

What was Conway's tone?

There was no triumphalism about the vote, which was wise. That said, a press conference comment that good developments in the past 13 years should not be forgotten was probably ill-advised. Fresh Sunday newspaper reports centred around board discussions earlier this year did not paint a good picture of the old regime.

Will the AGM go ahead on Saturday?

The answer is yes but with the caveat that it will be adjourned at some point due to the unavailability of annual accounts. Conway says the FAI will resume the AGM in late autumn when they have that information, with the delay arising from the number of ongoing investigations into FAI affairs.

Will the FAI be able to provide a financial update on Saturday?

The full picture at Abbotstown is unlikely to be outlined as Conway said that a plan to deal with challenges is still being finalised. UEFA are providing support to the FAI as a 'safety net' with speculation that anything from €10m to €20m could be required.

Conway declined to confirm any estimates on the basis that a deal had yet to be signed.

"Obviously we are a members body and when we do a deal with UEFA we have to report to our members, but I wouldn't see us being in a position to do that as of next Saturday," he said.

What we do know is that these talks centre around the early drawdown of funding owed to the FAI which is in keeping with the Abbotstown relationship with UEFA over the past decade. Conway did also describe the concept of trying to be debt-free by 2020 as 'stupid'. That is stating the obvious given the broader financial chat, but this was the target that was discussed at last year's AGM.

What happens next?

Nominees for the positions on the board drawn from the football community need to be lodged by the close of business on Wednesday with a view to decisions on Saturday. Some candidates are still deciding whether to run, with contests emerging in some constituencies where the respective groupings haven't worked together before. In reality, however, it's the political response to talking points that is likely to shape the atmosphere building towards Saturday.

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