Monday 19 August 2019

'The members of the FAI and all the relevant stakeholders have been let down' - Conway admits board are 'culpable'

FAI president calls on rank and file to accept changes or face more hardship

FAI President Donal Conway. Photo: Sportsfile
FAI President Donal Conway. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

President Donal Conway has acknowledged that the FAI board are "culpable" for the Association's current predicament.

But he believes that he retains the credibility to play a part in encouraging the FAI Council and membership to vote through proposed reforms that would change the power structure of Irish football.

Conway has warned that sponsorship and state funding will be further jeopardised if the rank and file say no to the proposals of the Governance Review Group established between the FAI and Sport Ireland

The 133-page report offers 78 recommendations that need to be implemented with 2020 the target for having the major boxes ticked.

And 140 of the 206 attendees at July's AGM will need to green-light the report. Conway believes it will pass, asserting that "there is no Plan B".

Changes include a new 12-person board with four independent directors and at least four women - with plans for a 33 per cent representation of females on all of the FAI's main decision-making bodies. As it stands, there are just two on the 58-person FAI Council.

It is understood that idea has caused some disquiet in football circles. Conway said it would be "sad" if that were the case.

Governance Review Group chair Aidan Horan stressed that "behaviour and attitudes" in the FAI need to change.

The introduction to the document says it's time to "modernise the make-up and perception of football administration in Ireland".

Conway admitted that the FAI Board - which has just seven remaining members following the resignation of John Earley earlier - have to shoulder blame for the flaws that have been highlighted.

"The members of the FAI and all the relevant stakeholders have been let down. That responsibility sits with the board," he said.

Minister for Sport Shane Ross has called for all members of the board to honour a commitment to step down at the AGM in July but the Review Group recommends that one or two stay on for another year as part of an interim board.

Conway has not ruled out doing so but conceded he will not be seeing out his four-year term as president. "My presidency is finished," he said.

Horan said the idea for short-term continuity was driven by the three independent members of the five-person review group. Current FAI Board member Niamh O'Donoghue was also on the report committee.

"We felt there was a more serious risk in letting everybody walk away," said Horan, referencing the need to manage the handover prudently.

In the short term, the board's job is to persuade long-serving Council members from around the country that they must say yes to the blueprint - even though it means that those who have served for a decade or longer can only stay for three more years.

"I feel I do have the credibility to sit in front of them and recommend this report," said Conway. "It's a calculation, a judgement call. I know the membership."

He added that a representative from FIFA will be present at the AGM, and stated that both FIFA and UEFA have been offered places on an implementation group overseeing the next phase.

Irish Independent

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