Monday 16 September 2019

'There is no plan B' - FAI president calls on delegates to pass review group recommendations at AGM

FAI President Donal Conway speaking during the Launch of Governance Review Group report at the Football Association of Ireland, National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
FAI President Donal Conway speaking during the Launch of Governance Review Group report at the Football Association of Ireland, National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

John Brennan

The FAI President Donal Conway has said "there is no plan B, this is Plan A and it is where we want to go" as he launched the joint FAI/Sport Ireland report on Governance in their Abbotstown HQ today.

He insisted that members of the Association must bring all the recommendations of the report into being at the AGM in Trim, Co. Meath next month. There the 206 delegates must pass the changes by a two-thirds majority.

Mr Conway also said that "this is 2019 in the Republic of Ireland" - so he hoped there would be no pushback against the proposal that at least a third of the FAI's board would be women within two years. He described all the proposed changes as "the right thing to do".

Read more: FAI structures set for shake-up as governance review group looks to 'modernise the make-up' of Irish football

Conway later said that he personally would sell the deal to the FAI AGM on the basis that there was nowhere else to go.

"Any other group of people coming up with a report would be using the same parameters as this report has, this is where we are.

"Yes, it will be difficult to get a two-thirds majority at the AGM, but I am going to talk to everyone in the game to tell them this is the way forward."

That work became harder with the resignation from the FAI board of John Earley, who represented the Schoolboys Association. It is understood that the Schoolboys FAI are considering voting en bloc against the proposed measures.

"We will be meeting them soon, as I will all our constituents," Conway said.

However, the ghost of John Delaney still hung over the gathering, with everyone present refusing to answer any questions about the future of the former chief executive, who is now on gardening leave.

Kieran Mulvey, Chairman of Sport Ireland, said he was delighted to welcome the report which was about changing an attitude, as there were not actually too many changes being sought to FAI rules.

Mulvey held out the carrot of being able to restore government funding to the FAI, currently worth €2.75m annually, if these changes come through at the AGM.

"We sometimes forget that a lot of the work done on the ground by the FAI is in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country, they are doing great work, and we've seen the senior team start the Euro 2020 campaign so well too. We want to be able to help this work go forward."  

Aidan Horan, chairman of the Governance Review Group, said that he felt one of the biggest recommendations was that a 'Football Management Committee' should be set up.

"This would handle the football aspect of the FAI, while the main board would run the association's business work, running a company with a €50m turnover," he said.

"My group was not constrained in any way," Mr. Horan insisted, "everything we wanted was given to us. If the AGM cannot deliver this change, then the FAI will be in a serious place."

Key recommendations of the report include the following:

  • The six governance principles proposed by the Group should be adopted by the FAI Board as appropriate and relevant to the functioning of all facets of the Association, from clubs through to Board and Council. The six principles are: good governance, effective leadership, accountability and transparency, ethical behaviour and integrity, stakeholder engagement and professionalism
  • All Board and committee members should receive formal induction training
  • New and more comprehensive terms for the Board and committees should be developed
  • Work clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the Chief Executive and other senior executives should be undertaken and reflected in an updated schedule of delegations from the Board to the executive
  • The Chief Executive should not be a member of the Board
  • The Board should undertake an annual review of its own effectiveness and that of its committees
  • The Board are required to have and should prioritise the implementation of a comprehensive risk management system across the whole organisation
  • The Board needs to ensure a robust culture of 'holding to account’ operates and is seen to operate within the organisation
  • As part of its work programme, the Board should consider and agree a process of evaluating the performance of the CEO. This process should be appropriate and transparent
  • The Board should urgently establish an Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee
  • The Association should immediately make arrangements for the establishment of an internal audit function
  • While there is a Code of Conduct for Board members and staff, it is recommended that a similar code be provided to committee members, council members and to contractors and agents working for and on behalf of the Association
  • All grant of funding arrangements above a defined threshold, e.g. €10,000, should be presented to the Board for review and approval
  • The composition of the Board should include independent Directors of whom one would act as Chairperson of the Board
  • The Board should consist of 12 members: four independent Directors of whom one would be the Chairperson of the Board, the President, Vice-President and six members representative of the football community
  • The positions of Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer should not be part of the revised structure and should cease to exist
  • There should be a minimum 33.3% of both genders within 24 months
  • It should be an objective of the Association that this gender balance can also be reflected at Council, Committee and AGM level and this should be achieved within three years
  • The election of the President and Vice-President should be done at the AGM
  • Council should continue to be the body to elect from its membership the footballing representatives to the Board
  • The six Board members coming from the football community be elected using a four-constituency model
  • A Nominations Committee be formed by the Board to select candidates for election as independent Directors
  • The limit for all members of the Board should be eight years, 4x2 year terms
  • There should be a maximum term limit of 10 years for members of Council       
  • The Board committees should be restructured so that the Board is supported by a number of committees, some of which will support the Board in the business elements of their role and some of which will support the Board in the football elements of their role
  • There will also be a Football Management Committee with a specific brief in the area of football matters and whose membership will include the chairpersons of the Football Committees
  • The representative imbalance in the current makeup of Council be addressed by provision for a further 21 positions which would see the Council with a membership of 79
  • Given the exceptional circumstances in which the FAI finds itself now and, more importantly, to start the process of rebuilding trust, faith and confidence in the Association and to progress the further work required, the group are recommending the appointment of an interim Board for a period up to the AGM in July 2020. This new Board would be appointed in accordance with the structures proposed in the report
  • In April 2019, the full Board of the FAI signalled their intention to resign and step down at the next AGM and the Group respect that this is the position
  • In acknowledging the exceptional circumstances that exist, and the many calls for a complete change at the top, the Group considers that, for handover and transition purposes and to manage the serious risks where everyone leaves at once, at least one or possibly a maximum of two members might consider putting themselves forward for positions on the interim Board. This will require the current Board, as a collective, to consider their individual and personal interests but more importantly at this stage consider the interests of the Association and decide what they, as a collective, consider is the best course of action 

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