Sport Soccer

Thursday 22 August 2019

Conway confirms intention to remain on FAI board

FAI president Donal Conway. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
FAI president Donal Conway. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

FAI president Donal Conway has confirmed his intention to defy the wishes of Minister for Sport Shane Ross by pressing ahead with his plan to stay on for another year as part of an interim board.

Conway hinted last week that he might reconsider his position after the announcement that he was the only candidate nominated for the role of president prompted a significant backlash.

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Ross told Conway to withdraw his nomination and representatives of Sport Ireland indicated to a Dail hearing that they would prefer if the long- serving board member stepped away immediately following a turbulent spell for the troubled Association. However, Conway has pointed to the decision of yesterday's FAI EGM to overwhelmingly endorse rule changes that will lead to reform as validation for his plan to remain in situ as part of the transition to a new board structure.

He said he called Sport Ireland chief John Treacy after the alterations to the rulebook passed with 116 in favour, and two against, with two abstentions.

"The members want continuity from the current board to the interim board", said Conway, explaining his decision, adding that a board meeting before the EGM backed his stance.

Conway said he was open to meeting with Treacy tomorrow.

The Governance Review Group, a joint venture between Sport Ireland and the FAI, recommended that up to two serving board members stay on for an interim period of 12 months.

Conway and vice president Noel Fitzroy are both running for re-election at next Saturday's AGM, although Fitzroy will face opposition from Gerry McAnaney and Paul Cooke.

There is strong speculation that John Earley - who resigned from the FAI board due to initial concerns that the schoolboy football fraternity had about the governance report - might look to stand again. Conway said last night there is no obstacle to former board members running for a place on the new top table.

Saturday's AGM will now go ahead in Trim as planned but Conway confirmed that it will be adjourned due to the fact that last year's accounts are not yet ready to be presented to delegates.

The AGM will resume in the autumn when the accounts are available, with the delay a by-product of a crisis-ridden period for the FAI that has led to a number of reports into their affairs being commissioned.

Conway reiterated after the EGM that as a senior member of the board, he "feels culpable" for the FAI's position but pointed to last night's vote as evidence of an appetite for reform amongst the membership. He said a turnout of 120 delegates out of a possible 202 was higher than recent attendance levels for AGMs or EGMs. Only seven of the no-shows sent apologies.

"Membership turned up in substantial numbers and that signals their intent for reform," said Conway. "There is a sense this is the first step on a much longer journey."

The 78 recommendations of the Governance Review Group will be phased in across the next 24 months.

Key changes include the construction of a new 12-person board with four independent members and at least four females - although the latter target does not need to be met immediately.

Six members of the board will come through football constituencies, and they have to be nominated by Wednesday with a view to election at Saturday's AGM. The other two places will be filled by the president and vice president.

Adopting the governance proposals was one of the steps necessary for the restoration of government funding but Sport Ireland's appearance in front of the Oireachtas Committee for Sport last Wednesday made it clear there are more hurdles to jump - and Conway accepted that yesterday.

That includes the completion of a Sport Ireland commissioned audit into the FAI which is being carried out by Northern Irish firm KOSI with September floated as a prospective date.

Meanwhile, Conway said that professional services firm Mazars could have the first module of their report ready by August or September.

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