| 18.5°C Dublin

Pass reforms at EGM or lose out on millions - government's stark warning to FAI as Barrett hits back at MacSharry

Close

The government have warned the FAI to pass governance reforms at their EGM or face missing out on funding. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The government have warned the FAI to pass governance reforms at their EGM or face missing out on funding. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

The government have warned the FAI to pass governance reforms at their EGM or face missing out on funding. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has asserted that the FAI must convene an EGM this month and introduce the rule changes laid out in January's rescue deal - or else risk losing out on vital state funding including the Covid-19 support package.

Ryan represented government in response to strong Dáil questioning from Fianna Fail TD Marc MacSharry, who voiced the concerns of FAI Board and Council members, who feel that the memorandum giving independent directors 50 per cent representation on the top table would effectively be giving control to outside forces.

MacSharry questioned the authority of FAI independent chair Roy Barrett to sign and then enact the emergency deal agreed with then Minister Shane Ross, UEFA and the banks - an action that prompted a strong response from Barrett in a personal statement released through the FAI late on Thursday night.

After again raising issues about Barrett's links with interim CEO Gary Owens and his deputy Niall Quinn, MacSharry claimed that Taoiseach Micheal Martin had previously told him that Fianna Fail would review the deal terms if they came into power.

The subject was addressed by Barrett who urged MacSharry to 'check his facts' around an FAI Council meeting in March that included a vote built around the board's authority to pursue the funding arrangements agreed with government.

"No funds were drawn down from any of the parties involved before that Council vote," wrote Barrett.

Barrett is furious that MacSharry used the word 'corruption' under parliamentary privilege in the context of the FAI's current hierarchy.

"I find it objectionable that a Deputy would use Dail privilege to make a statement like that without fear of reproach," he said.

Ministers Catherine Martin and Dara Calleary last week wrote to the FAI to confirm that the new government shared the views of the outgoing Ross on the memorandum terms.

The increase from four to six independent directors and a ruling that Council members who have served for ten years must stand down immediately has caused consternation in football circles.

75 per cent of attendees at an EGM will have to approve this and Ryan clearly laid out the government view that they should do so as a consequence of past failings - and also to guarantee they collect vital funds including the FAI's share of the €40m in Covid relief.

"To be clear, the conditions in the MoU must be implemented in full," said Ryan. "There will be no renegotiation of the terms.

"The FAI must convene an EGM this month to implement rule changes to provide for an increase to six independent directors on its board and for those members of the FAI Council with more than ten years service to stand down.

"If these rule changes are not implemented, Sport Ireland will be unable to disperse any funds to the FAI including the Covid-19 support funding approved by the government last month.

"The FAI has been in a financial crisis the likes of which has never been faced by an Irish sporting body.

"The memorandum of understanding signed by Shane Ross and Roy Barrett was a very important and necessary measure.

"It enabled Sport Ireland to restore funding of €2.9m per annum and to provide additional funding of €2.9m for football development up to 2023. It also provides for a repayable grant of just over €7.6m to the FAI to pay its licence fee for the Aviva Stadium up until 2022.

"The FAI Board and Council ultimately failed in their duty to the Association and its members, the grassroots club and the volunteers to hold the executive leadership to account.

"This is why government had to step in to provide additional funding to safeguard the future of Irish soccer and the livelihoods of over 200 people employed by the FAI.

"We couldn't ignore the findings of the KOSI auditors that the FAI, in its previous form, was not fit to receive public funding. We will be monitoring carefully the progress on reform and if there are concerns that we are seeing a return to the old FAI, we won't hesitate to suspend funding once again.

"The return to sport will not be easy and that should be the focus of everyone involved in Irish soccer."

MacSharry was not satisfied with Minister Ryan's response, declaring that he had 'gone native' and asking why he was answering queries rather than his party colleague Martin - the new Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht.

He said the FAI had shipped in 'total elitism' and argued that a 'small group of people have designed their version of what good governance is. It's a disgrace.'

The Sligo based TD said that a 6 v 6 split of independent directors and elected football representatives - with the chair Barrett given the casting vote - would create an 'absurd' situation that made the FAI an 'outlier' in global football terms.

He added that the term limits prohibits 'good hard-working directors who served in the past and who stood up to the previous regime' from serving on future committees because 'the last thing we want is any expertise around the place.'

The discussion around the signing of the memorandum is sure to be raised if the troubled football body do convene an EGM with the mandatory seven days notice. But rules on indoor gatherings have raised doubts about whether that can happen in a satisfactory manner within the July time-frame.

In concluding his missive, Barrett said that he remained 'committed to the roadmap for the reform of the FAI' and to improving 'the working environment for all of our employees to provide the support required by all of those engaged in the game of football at all levels across the country and to all of those supporters who just want to make the game better."

He said that he was available to receive constructive input from any stakeholder.

Online Editors