Sunday 15 September 2019

Daniel McDonnell: 'Association will never be the same again if board does the right thing'


Sport Ireland Chief Executive John Treacy arrives for the Joint Committee on Tranpsort, Tourism & Sport meeting at Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Sport Ireland Chief Executive John Treacy arrives for the Joint Committee on Tranpsort, Tourism & Sport meeting at Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Forget Saipan. That was a row in a piano room. This is the whole Titanic going down.

The FAI, as we know it, will never be the same again. It should never be allowed to be the same again.

Through the greatest difficulty in the association's history, an opportunity beckons - as surreal as that may sound in the wake of four ongoing reviews and implications which really should not be figuring in any sports story.

That opportunity is to reform an archaic model which is simply not fit for purpose when you are talking about a business with a €50m turnover that is trying to compete in a truly global sport.

And that's why the board members on their way out have one last chance to rewrite their epitaph.

They can be remembered as the group who sat around a top table that was dominated by John Delaney to the extent they weren't even told when he gave his employer a €100,000 dig-out.

Let's be honest - that should probably be their legacy. But they do have the chance now to fully instigate a process of change which ensures that the FAI's main decision-making body is never again comprised of individuals with their backgrounds.

What's required is a senior management review that will have to go a little bit further than the Jonathan Hall report which, in the opinion of Catherine Murphy TD, was centred far too much around the importance of one man's gig with UEFA.

Stepping down at an EGM or an AGM really isn't good enough if what follows is an election of FAI Council members to replace them.

This is the FAI Council which has been incapable of throwing up candidates to stand against the long serving board members that were part of the wallpaper during Delaney's CEO years.

Is this where the FAI looks for inspiration? To the assembly room that sat quiet during every AGM as they listened to speeches from the podium which presented the glass as somewhere between half full to overflowing.

Under the current governance structure, that's where they have to go.

Scroll the list of options and you will find some names that only came to national prominence in recent weeks because they signed statements extolling the virtues of the association's former leader.

In their respective localities, they are well known as veterans of their own patch. The parallels with the superiors are striking.

Sport Ireland chief John Treacy believes the leading voices on the sub-committee of the FAI board are now trying to do the right thing, much as they have been condemned by TDs for "evasive" answers and springing important information on them at the last minute. Those FAI officials must now embrace calls for a reshaping of the board system and the rules propping it up.

It is clear that Sport Ireland, the statutory body, does not have the power to demand it.

But the ball is in the court of the FAI board now, as they can now set the wheels in motion for an evolutionary EGM just two years before the association marks its centenary.

Independent voices are required, and they shouldn't need to serve time at constituency and committee level before scaling the ladder.

A seat on the board is not a reward for service. It should be a recognition of what that person is capable of delivering.

From the rubble of a month of mayhem, this is the FAI's window to save itself.

Irish Independent

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