Saturday 24 August 2019

Schoolboys camp throw FAI plans into turmoil

Donal Conway. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Donal Conway. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

The FAI's plans to revamp their structure have been thrown into turmoil as the influential Schoolboys bloc has said they will not vote for change unless they are guaranteed a seat on the association's board.

"If we don't have an automatic seat on the board we will reject this FAI document, it's as simple as that," was the message last night from Schoolboy Football Association of Ireland (SFAI) Executive Committee member Tony Gains.

FAI president Donal Conway and interim general manager Noel Mooney are on a month-long roadshow to try and convince the different parts of what they call the "football family" to accept the proposals for change made by the FAI's Governance Review Group.

The key elements of that review would drastically change the shape of the FAI board, with four independent directors, at least four female members of a 12-person board, and an expanded senior council - with seats given to bodies currently not represented, such as supporters' groups, player representatives and the Women's National League clubs.

Under the plan, the powerful SFAI would no longer be certain of a seat on the board but would have one on a rotating basis with representatives of the women's game, leading to a potential eight-year wait for an SFAI voice at board level.

The proposals to change the FAI structure will be voted on at the FAI's AGM in Trim on July 27 and they need a two-thirds majority. The SFAI will have 36 delegates eligible to vote at the AGM and they could block the entire process.

Two weeks ago, SFAI chairman and FAI director John Earley resigned from the FAI board in protest at the planned changes, and there was more anger vented at FAI plans at the SFAI's AGM on Saturday.

"The main issue is that the SFAI have 120,000 kids playing football in Ireland and we're not guaranteed a place on the board. The mood within the room was that, as we are the biggest affiliate in the FAI, our representation on the board is poor, compared to the National League," said Gains, the North Dublin Schoolboys/Girls League representative on the SFAI's executive committee.

"We said that to Donal Conway, that for the Schoolboys to support this, they have to be guaranteed a seat on the board. His answer to that was that the document was not going to be changed. But this plan will be rejected by the SFAI at the FAI AGM. A lot of people are very unhappy."

A gripe at Schoolboy level will be the power held by other sections, especially at League of Ireland level, on a new-look FAI Senior Council

"When they were looking at the governance of the FAI where one affiliate, the LOI, have 20 votes and we have four at the moment. That's a huge disparity and where are the LOI clubs going to get all their players? From schoolboy football of course, but we have no say," added Gains.

When the FAI published the review last month, Conway made it clear there was "no Plan B".

Now they may need just that.

Irish Independent

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