Wednesday 22 May 2019

Leinster Senior League seek view from members on whether FAI board 'should resign'

Attending a meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Sport at Dáil Éireann in Dublin are from left, FAI Board Member and Honorary Treasurer Eddie Murray, FAI Interim Chief Executive Rea Walshe, FAI President Donal Conway, FAI Executive Vice President John Delaney, FAI Director of Public Relations and Communications Cathal Dervan and FAI Director of Competitions Fran Gavin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Attending a meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on Sport at Dáil Éireann in Dublin are from left, FAI Board Member and Honorary Treasurer Eddie Murray, FAI Interim Chief Executive Rea Walshe, FAI President Donal Conway, FAI Executive Vice President John Delaney, FAI Director of Public Relations and Communications Cathal Dervan and FAI Director of Competitions Fran Gavin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

John Fallon

The largest junior league in Ireland, the Leinster Senior League, have sought views on their clubs on whether the entire board of the Football Association of Ireland should be cleared out.

Their circular to members in the 23 divisions was issued last night following the abject performance by the three board members at yesterday’s hearing at the Oireachtas committee for sport, transport and tourism.

John Delaney, who has been the longest serving board member for 17 years up to his recent sideways move from chief executive to executive vice-president, would not take any questions from the committee on the scandal generated by his €100,000 loan to the association in 2017.

Long-serving Treasurer Eddie Murray, approaching his 80th birthday, told the committee the FAI only had one bank account. An hour later, it was confirmed the association has, in fact, 24 different bank accounts.

President Donal Conway provided minimal insight, instead declining to answer what he considered ‘operational matters’ while Paraic Treanor said he couldn’t confirm all financial matters were above board until the completion of audits by Grant Thornton and Mazars.

None of three board members expressed a lack of confidence in Delaney despite him keeping them in the dark about the €100,000 for two years until last month when he tried to injunct the Sunday Times from publishing the details.

Now, the much respected LSL, in operation since 1896, has asked clubs whether their governing body should be allowed to go in a 'new direction'.

It comes on the back of yesterday’s call by Fergus O’Dowd, the Oireachtas committee chairman, for all board members to step down.

The Fine Gael TD followed the lead of fellow members Catherine Murphy, Imelda Munster, Ruth Coppinger and Noel Rock by also requesting Delaney to be removed entirely from the association to guarantee a future for Irish football.

An email to clubs by LSL Secretary Pat Kiernan, seen by Independent.ie, read: “The committee of the Leinster Senior League, the biggest adult league in the country, would like to seek the views of our members regarding their confidence in the board of the FAI following the events of the last few weeks, and with the contradictory statements issued, and the withdrawal of funding by Sport Ireland for grassroots projects.

"Do we believe the board should resign and allow the association to go in a new direction?”

Amid the various sagas surrounding Delaney over the years, he has always cited support from his beloved grassroots as a defence.

The Leinster Senior League, however, appear to be change agents in this regard and prepared to risk the wrath of the mothership for their independence.

They provided a pointed response to a statement released a fortnight ago by the four paid full-time provincial coordinators which claimed Delaney still enjoyed the backing of the “all the grassroots”.

A major fracture appeared in that declaration when the LSL, a core member of the Leinster Football Association (LFA), revealed that they hadn’t had their views sought prior to the statement’s release.

In a further signal that the episode – which Delaney admitted has caused embarrassment to Irish football – is convincing the football family to engender an overhaul, the official Irish supporters’ clubs federation last night criticised the FAI.

The Confederation of Republic of Ireland Supporters Clubs (CRISC) posted a tweet, saying: “CRISC are concerned at the lack of purposeful engagement by the FAI at today’s meeting. It is imperative that confidence is restored in the governance of the FAI and funding that has been cut is reinstated. Today fell short in achieving both of those goals.”

It remains to be seen whether other delegates, or collective bodies such as the Premier Club Alliance (PCA) in the League of Ireland, outline their concerns at the latest humiliation caused by the present regime to Irish football.

Niall Quinn, who won 92 caps and played at two World Cups for Ireland, said yesterday’s shambolic display by FAI officials over eight hours at government buildings marked the lowest point he’s ever experienced in Irish football.

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