Sunday 20 October 2019

Donal Conway faces early exit as FAI attempt to regain its State funding

Donal Conway has won plaudits for his work recently. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Donal Conway has won plaudits for his work recently. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

FAI president Donal Conway is set to come under renewed pressure to step down in the wake of the departure of John Delaney.

Mr Conway was part of the FAI negotiating team that thrashed out a deal which led to the resignation of the former chief executive over the weekend.

But the president is coming under internal and external pressure to consider his position again in order to facilitate a cutting of ties with the Delaney regime.

Well-placed sources say there will be a move for Mr Conway to leave after AGM business is concluded in November with his presence viewed as a possible stumbling block in the bid to restore State funding.

The former schoolteacher has already committed to leaving next summer after receiving approval from FAI delegates in July to stay on for one more year.

Minister for Tourism, Transport and Sport Shane Ross strongly voiced his objections to that decision.

Governance reform proposals adopted by the football body recommended that up to two board members stay on to facilitate a handover to a new board structure featuring four independent directors.

Mr Conway has been praised for his handling of the fall-out from a turbulent period for the FAI, with new board members praising his work in trying to steady the ship through choppy waters.

However, Mr Conway's links with Mr Delaney remain a problem for the FAI's attempts to present itself as a reformed operation.

He was a board member for almost the entirety of Mr Delaney's stint as chief executive officer, when he was handed the contract that ultimately proved to be a major issue when it came to agreeing exit terms.

Mr Delaney has secured a payment in the region of €350,000 to leave and would have earned in the region of €175,000 in wages during his five-month period of 'gardening leave'.

The completion of a number of reports will lay bare the financial picture in Abbotstown. July's AGM was adjourned because the 2018 accounts were not ready because of ongoing enquiries.

The meeting will resume in November and outline where the FAI stands with regard to debt commitments. Bad news is anticipated.

Leading figures within the FAI feel this would be the appropriate juncture for Mr Conway to hand over the reins and that pressure is likely to intensify at Government level once a Sport Ireland commissioned audit comes out next week.

The Oireachtas Committee on Sport wants to bring the FAI back in. An independent member will chair the board going forward, with over 150 applications received for the four places that are due to be filled this month.

Irish Independent

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