Sport Soccer

Sunday 18 August 2019

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry warns FAI against rushed reforms

TD Marc MacSharry
TD Marc MacSharry

John Greene

Just a week from a critical emergency general meeting of the FAI, there is growing concern that moves to transform the embattled association are being "rushed".

The FAI is seeking to have a raft of recommendations from the recent internal governance review passed at an EGM in Dunboyne on Saturday with president Donal Conway urging members to support them in a letter to delegates last week.

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"I cannot over-emphasise the importance of our members voting in favour of the proposed resolutions at the AGM, and separately at the EGM, as the passing of these resolutions will help to deliver change and improve the way in which the association is governed," wrote Conway.

Key recommendations include formal training for board members, addressing the gender balance and term limits, and increasing the board to 12 members with four of those independently appointed.

Two members of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport, however, have this weekend raised concerns about the process of change being pursued by the FAI.

To date, the internal governance review of the association is the only one to be completed which means a further five investigations are still in train.

"There's an incredible rush, and we're in danger of putting in place a whole series of recommendations that might become obsolete as each of these other reports become available and in terms of what measures will need to be taken," said TD Marc MacSharry, who has written to the Minister for Sport, Shane Ross, and Sport Ireland, to outline his concerns.

In the letter, MacSharry and his party colleague Kevin O'Keeffe say there is a "crisis in confidence among the vast majority of those involved in football in the FAI's governance and structures".

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, MacSharry said that it is becoming clear to many that the time-scale for change is wrong, and the FAI is looking to introduce reforms in advance of the outcome of five other investigations.

He said there needs to be a clearer picture of what the FAI is facing into before any key decisions are made.

"We need the minister or Sport Ireland now to say we're approaching this wrong. We need to pick a time-frame; we need to get all of these reports; we need an independent interim leadership team; we probably need to get everybody off the board; and we need to secure the future of the organisation and put a time-frame on it. And when all these reports are done, in two, three, four months or whatever, then let's look at the level of reform, governance, structures, leadership that's required."

The letter to the minister also raised concerns about the FAI's financial situation in the wake of confirmation from Conway that the accounts will not be available in time for the agm on July 27.

"How can very important decisions about the future of the association be taken in a financial vacuum?" he asks. "Indeed, without the accounts being available, one would have to question the validity of the AGM itself."

He adds: "Currently, UEFA is providing cash flow to allow the association to function, but this cannot continue indefinitely. What will the impact of the current financial position be on staff and development programmes?" Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, who is also a member of the Oireachtas committee, said the failure to have the accounts ready for the agm was "a grave situation".

"It is highly unusual if accounts are not ready for an agm, particularly if you are talking about accounts that are up to December 31 and the agm is not for another seven or eight months after that. You definitely should have audited accounts."

Ó Céidigh has also called for an interim board to be tasked with overseeing reform, with just four FAI appointees, with the other two-thirds being appointed by the minister and UEFA.

It has also emerged this weekend that the committee will meet with Sport Ireland to discuss the latest developments in the ongoing controversy, which erupted in the wake of revelations that former FAI chief executive John Delaney had provided a €100,000 bridging loan to the association in April 2017.

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