Monday 11 November 2019

'Restoration of state funding can be achieved by this board whether I'm on it or not' insists defiant FAI chief


Conway: “I think there are some tough days ahead of us would be my view.” Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Conway: “I think there are some tough days ahead of us would be my view.” Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

FAI president Donal Conway has conceded that there are more "tough days ahead" for the troubled body, but stressed that he plans to stay put for the remainder of his tenure on the interim board.

And Conway has asserted his belief that his decision to stay on until next July will not have any impact on the government's call on whether to restore state funding.

He was speaking following an FAI Council meeting at Abbotstown that delivered an update on the ongoing reviews and reports into the Association's affairs.

Conway and vice-president Paul Cooke confirmed that a Revenue Commissioners probe into "tax issues" has been added to the list.

The Sport Ireland-commissioned audit from Northern Irish firm KOSI is due for completion in mid-November and the FAI-commissioned report from Mazars is due later that month or in early December - although full publication of their work may be dependent on legal advice related to individuals named within it.

That is also the approximate time-frame for the resumption of the FAI AGM for the presentation of 2018 accounts, a gathering that is set to deliver bad news on the financial position.

"I think there are some tough days ahead of us would be my view," said Conway. "The reports, okay, they will be retrospective in the main and we might be trying to be more forward-looking now. But I still think the reports and managing the output of the reports will be difficult days."

Cooke added that the accounts will present a stark reality of where the FAI stand.

"They won't be pretty," he said. "I think there will be shock, yes. I'm not going to confirm any figure or anything like that but they're not pretty."

That will place more pressure on Conway, a long-serving member of the board under ex-CEO John Delaney.

Minister for Tourism, Transport and Sport Shane Ross has called for Conway to step down but he has stressed that he will stay until next July after being given a mandate to do so by FAI members as part of a transition to a new regime.

"When I went for election, the intention was to serve the 12 months of the interim board," said Conway.

"Between now and next July could something happen that would make me revise my decision? It possibly could. But it would have to be something coming from left-field that I'm not aware of now that would make me reconsider.

"Minister Ross has sat down with UEFA and FIFA where they have said that there is a fundamental principle and statutes that states that the association elects its leadership and that whoever holds the role of leadership is not subject to a third party.

"In our engagement with Sport Ireland they address the issue of: (what) you must do for the restoration of state funding, of Sport Ireland funding anyway. And those things can all be achieved by this interim board whether I'm on it or not on it."

Conway added "of course" when asked if he would step down if it transpired that he was an obstacle. "My understanding is that the issue of funding is connected to governance, it's not personal."

Interim FAI boss Noel Mooney is set to leave at the end of November to return to UEFA and Conway admits that the board have discussed bringing in another stopgap solution as they are not yet ready to appoint a permanent replacement for Delaney.

That's because of a hold-up in the sourcing of four independent directors to take up the remaining slots on the 12-person board. A nominations committee to make those appointments has now been agreed; they will interview candidates on a shortlist.

Recruitment firm Amrop have driven the process and they have put forward Christina Kenny to go on the committee along with Conway, FAI board member Dick Shakespeare and Sport Ireland nominees Peter McLoone and retired athlete Olive Loughnane.

At the Council meeting in Abbotstown, a number of vacant places on FAI committees were filled.

TV executive Larry Bass - an influential figure with Cabinteely FC - was voted onto the FAI's Finance Committee along with Shelbourne's Andrew Doyle.

Bass said: "The only way to get anything done is to get involved, the finances have been well publicised and it needs help and attention. I believe in getting s*** done."

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