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FAI chief Barrett defends Bank of Ireland link as members vote to approve €35m deal

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FAI Independent Chairperson Roy Barrett during a FAI post-EGM media briefing at FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

FAI Independent Chairperson Roy Barrett during a FAI post-EGM media briefing at FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

FAI Independent Chairperson Roy Barrett during a FAI post-EGM media briefing at FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

FAI independent chair Roy Barrett has dismissed what he described as a 'conspiracy theory' about his relationship with Bank of Ireland chief Patrick Kennedy which overshadowed a significant EGM vote that ratified the restoration of state funding for the troubled football body.

Barrett came under pressure ahead of the emphatic approval to change the composition of the FAI board which delivers in the region of €35m of state funds in the coming years in addition to guaranteeing Covid-19 relief support.

The bone of contention was the revelation that Kennedy had recommended Barrett to headhunters Amrop during their search for the key independent director.

He was subsequently appointed and was involved in crunch rescue deal negotiations involving UEFA, the government and the bank.

Barrett has asserted that he did not meet Kennedy prior to the approach by Amrop.

He says there is nothing untoward about it as it did not have any impact on the vital negotiations.

Barrett said that the FAI got the best terms possible.

During the EGM, Wexford MEP Mick Wallace had questioned why they had not secured a debt writedown.

"I don't think there was anything else we could have done to get better terms in the circumstances," said Barrett.

"We were on the verge of insolvency which was not a good place to be."

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"My appointment was not at the behest or Bank of Ireland or anybody else. There’s nothing remarkable about recommending someone to a headhunter. It was Amrop who approached me. I’ve known Patrick (Kennedy) for a very long time.

"It’s completely transparent. Amrop approached me on the basis of a number of recommendations. It’s quite a normal way of doing business and I don’t think it should cast a shadow.

"I am entirely satisfied that I have behaved in a very transparent way with all of the stakeholders and I believe that the funding package that was achieved was as good an outcome that could be achieved in the circumstance. My conscience is clear. I've become the story and I don't believe I should be the story."

Interim FAI CEO Gary Owens did subsequently tell 'Off The Ball' that "in hindsight" the manner should perhaps have come up earlier.

Barrett was speaking after FAI members voted to accept changes to the Association's rules and governance structures.

The necessary two thirds majority was easily secured at a meeting that was held virtually on account of the Covid-19 crisis although a small number of leading officials - including Barrett and President Gerry McAnaney - were in Abbotstown.

Ultimately, the main business was a vote that approves rule changes arising from the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that accompanied January's deal.

114 out of 123 present at the virtual gathering endorsed adopting the MoU with eight voting against and one abstaining. Subsequently, 116 members voted in favour of passing specific rule changes.

Cash tied up with improved state relations include increased annual funding going forward, with the contribution raising from €2.9m to €5.8m per annum, help with the Association's Aviva Stadium commitments and also football's portion of emergency Covid-19 relief.

There is a question mark over whether a portion of outstanding funds from last year will be received due to historic issues with meeting terms and conditions.

The FAI did manage to secure tweaks to the MoU terms over the last week after talks with Ministers Catherine Martin and Jack Chambers, most notably the demand that FAI Council members who have served for ten years should step away immediately.

That exit date has been pushed back until 2022 in tandem with what is effectively an abolition of Council and the establishment of a new General Assembly with an electoral code that will test the suitability of candidates.

However, another angle of attack was the perception that amendments to the board structure represented a loss of independence.

The ratified changes mean that a further two independent directors will be added to the board to bring the tally up to six with two football elected seats taken away to ensure a 50 percent split.

Both League of Ireland football and the amateur game will lose one of their two seats around the top table.

However, plans are in place for the casting vote to be handed over from Barrett to McAnaney as an attempt to assuage fears.

Barrett said afterwards: "All resolutions passed overwhelmingly and it’s really good for the organisation and the staff."

McAnaney added: "It’s been a long struggle and we are going to look forward from today."

He did concede that the Kennedy subject was likely to come up at the next board meeting.


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