Tuesday 15 October 2019

Daniel McDonnell: 'First step along the road to recovery for the FAI as the shadow of inquiries looms large'


John Delaney. Picture: Gerry Mooney
John Delaney. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

What was significant about yesterday?

This was the first meeting of the FAI's Council since Irish football was plunged into crisis by the fallout from John Delaney's bridging loan to his employer.

What did we learn?

While the FAI took issue with a statement from Siptu claiming that the financial situation in Abbotstown was precarious, president Donal Conway then admitted that support from Uefa will guarantee "the continued viability of the FAI" and ensure there is no threat to staff.

That's big news, isn't it?

Yes. The 49 attendees of the council meeting were not given figures - finance director Alex O'Connell made a brief contribution without putting numbers on the table - but it was made clear by president Donal Conway that backing from Uefa will be necessary for the FAI to negotiate this period. Mr Conway was part of a delegation that met Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin last Monday.

What is Fifa's role?

Two governance experts from Fifa were also present at Abbotstown to meet with the FAI board ahead of discussions with Sport Ireland today.

Fifa want to safeguard the autonomy of the FAI as its rules forbid government intervention in football matters.

Is the FAI making a point to the Government by leaning on Uefa and Fifa?

It is believed that FAI officials have been unhappy with some of the comments from the political sphere during this crisis. The suspension of State funding has been damaging, but it does receive a significantly larger amount of funding from Uefa and that is why keeping it on side is arguably more important to the Abbotstown hierarchy.

Where do yesterday's developments leave John Delaney?

It's believed there was only a handful of references to Mr Delaney during the two-hour meeting yesterday - with arch loyalists keen to mention good work during his tenure. The fact long-term critic Paul Cooke is now on a board sub-committee plotting the way forward reflects a changing of the guard.

It's also significant for the current Uefa executive committee member that Mr Ceferin has been given an update from the current board about the state of play in Ireland.

Who was doing the talking at the council meeting?

Mr Conway was the main speaker. Interim CEO Rea Walshe delivered a report, but Mr Conway was the main point of contact for questions from the floor.

How do FAI staff feel?

Rank-and-file staff are still worried about their position, despite assurances that Uefa will act as a "safety net" if funds are tight.

At a staff meeting on Monday, three employees were nominated to represent them in talks and they met the Sport Ireland appointees on the Governance Review Group yesterday.

What happens next?

The FAI remain in crisis mode as it deals with six different reviews, but the Governance Review Group is due to present a report in June with a view to reforms being implemented at July's AGM.

Some delegates believe that timescale is far too ambitious.

Irish Independent

The Left Wing - RWC Daily: Quarter-final fever hits as Ireland gear up for toughest test of all

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport