Thursday 19 September 2019

'It's a quick fix by official Ireland to try brush this under the carpet' - Brendan Menton calls on FAI to approach FIFA

Brendan Menton with John Delaney in 2002
Brendan Menton with John Delaney in 2002
Ger Keville

Ger Keville

Former general secretary of the FAI, Brendan Menton, says the entire current board and senior council have no role in the future of Irish football.

Menton, who resigned as general secretary of the FAI in 2002 following Saipan and the subsequent fallout and Genesis Report, also sent a strong message to FAI President, Donal Conway, to go to FIFA and push for the implementation of a normalisation committee to bring stability to Irish football.

The FAI is in the midst of its biggest crisis in modern times since the Sunday Times' revelation that former CEO John Delaney, currently on self-imposed gardening leave, wrote a €100k cheque to his employers because of a cash-flow problem.

It has since been revealed that Delaney enjoyed €3k a month rent allowance and amassed a €40k credit card bill in just six months while in charge of the FAI.

There are currently a number of separate investigations into the FAI's finances and governance. 

While the entire board is expected to stand down at the AGM in July, Menton says that will not be enough and that a full restructure of the Irish football system is required.

FIFA rules state that any government interference in football associations could lead to that country being suspended from major tournaments but Menton says these are extraordinary circumstances and FIFA involvement is a necessity.

"In my piece on medium.com I said to the President of the FAI, Donal Conway, 'lead this process'. Don't have FIFA come chasing the FAI, you go to FIFA. Explain, ask for their help, ask them to impose this normalisation committee. My fear is that is going to be ignored," Menton said on RTE Radio One today.

Menton says many of the FAI's current problems stem back to the non-implementation of certain strands of the Genesis Report and criticised Sport Ireland who full endorsed Genesis following Saipan in 2002.

"I'm quite critical of Sport Ireland in all of this. They supported the Genesis Report. They were enthusiastic about John Delaney but the signals have been there from early on," added Menton.

"As early as 2004 when Brendan Dillon, who was chairman of the League of Ireland and a director of the board, resigned in protest about the non full implementation of the Genesis Report. That was the first signal."

Should Sport Ireland have a role in dealing with this now?

"No," answered Menton without hesitation. "I think official Ireland is designing a quick-fix solution to bury this under the carpet. Let me say why I am critical of Sports Ireland's reform approach. The timing scale is ridiculous. Less than three months to the AGM in July. How are all the investigations to be completed? How is all the restructuring going to happen in that timescale? It's not.

"Is there any proposal in that to discuss with grassroots? Football in this county is owned by the clubs, the players, the referees....not by the board members, not by the council members, not by the leagues. It's owned by the clubs. Is there any idea that they are going to consult at that level? Not that I know of.

"Their proposal leaves the decision-making in the hands of people who have been complicit in creating this debalce. The biggest problem for me is the power block that is the FAI Council. It's 59 members but it consists of cabals. Of block voting. The provincial associations and junior council, they control 36 per cent of the votes. They block vote and they will resist change and Sport Ireland are asking them to lead change? Come on."

Menton added that he understands members of the senior council are now angling for the two board positions left vacant following the departure of Michael Cody (honorary secretary) and Eddie Murray (honorary treasurer). But he remains adamant that this can not be allowed to happen.

"I think all the board members, all the council members..they are all complicit," he added:

"What about the roles of the company secretaries in all this? What have they been doing over the past few years? And they are still involved in sport in this country. I think they should have no role in the future of football.

"The council are appointed by the members as their watchdog. They fell asleep.

"Even now, from what I am hearing, council members are maneuvering for advancement. There are two vacancies on the board in the Honorary Treasurer and Honorary Secretary role. People are maneuvering to get those roles. Do they have the skillset as an Honorary Treasurer to run an organisation of €50million (turnover) with very significant debt and facing, possibly, huge financial risks?

"The Honorary Secretary is the compliance officer of the association. Does the person putting themselves forward for that role have the skillset to carry out that role in the current environment? I don't think that is important. They have the votes, probably, that's what's important to these people."

Menton also asked for current President Donal Conway to put the interests of Irish football ahead of his own, urging him to contact FIFA.

"Put the interests of Irish football ahead of your political preservation within football," he said.

"I have no doubt that a FIFA normalisation committee gives you the time, gives you the independence...we need to not only reform the board and the chief executive officer, we need to reform the political structures within football. We need to empower the clubs. We need to banish these cabals and reduce their influence and power. This is what we need to do and it's only and independent body that can do that.

"In a worst case scenario, I would say to the government...interfere, force a suspension, force a normalisation committee. This is what has happened in other countries around the world. Force FIFA to come on board because the current strategy is designed to fail. It's a quick fix by official Ireland to try brush this under the carpet."

Last weekend, The Sunday Times revealed that FIFA are looking into ticketing arrangements between the FAI and a Marcus Evans, owner of Ipswich Town, over ticket distribution for previous tournaments.

Menton said it was "disgraceful" that the FAI could agree to sell on up to 25 per cent of Irish fans tickets for corporate hospitality packages.  

"I think this investigation of the FAI has to go a lot further," he said. "It has to include the ticket deal between the FAI and Marcus Evans Limited, which Mark Tighe exposed two weeks ago.

"12.5 per cent of tickets for Irish away matches going to a corporate hospitality company? 25 per cent of tickets for [European Championships and World Cups in] Poland, possibly for France? That's disgraceful."

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