Tuesday 22 October 2019

'This is a genuine chance to change things, it can't be wasted' - Paul Cooke running for FAI board position

Paul Cooke. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Paul Cooke. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Former Waterford United delegate Paul Cooke has called for a process of "cleansing" at the FAI after he put his name forward for one of the two vacant posts on the FAI's board of directors.

With the departure of John Delaney from the board and his FAI roles due to his status of "gardening leave" and the resignations last month of Honorary Treasurer Eddie Murray and Honorary Secretary Michael Cody, the FAI is being run by a seven-person board.

It's a bruising time for the association whose access to state funding is still cut off.

Three reports are being conducted into the FAI's affairs over finance and governance; there's a major headache over Waterford FC being denied a licence to compete in the Europa League even though the club claimed they had been given assurances by the FAI that they could play in Europe; fresh questions about the FAI's club licencing process after Limerick FC were unable to pay player wages just weeks into the new season; and a vote by two powerful schoolboy leagues in Dublin to end the summer season structure and revert to the traditional season.

Nominations for the key posts of treasurer and secretary closed at 5pm on Tuesday but the FAI refused to disclose how many nominations were received, or who was nominated, as nominations sent by registered post for the Tuesday deadline were still arriving at FAI offices yesterday.

Cooke, who was previously Waterford United's representative on the FAI council and who was a critic of how the association was being run, says he has allowed his name go forward for the treasurer's role, nominated by Dave Moran from the Leinster Senior League and seconded by Cabinteely FC. "We want change, we need change, we need to cleanse things at the FAI," Cooke said last night.

"There are a number of reports being conducted into the FAI, we have to let those reports do their work but what's gone on cannot be buried.

"This is a genuine chance to change things at the association, the way it has been run but that opportunity has to be taken, it can't be wasted."

Senior team manager Mick McCarthy spoke last week of a grim mood he noted in the FAI when he visited their HQ in Abbotstown, McCarthy joking that people would only whisper that they worked for the association due to embarrassment while one member of staff joked that he felt the need to hide his FAI-branded tracksuit while walking through Dublin city centre to avoid abuse.

Colin O'Brien, manager of the Irish U17s side who open their campaign in the European Championship finals tomorrow also spoke of how FAI staff were trying to do their jobs with the many clouds hanging over the association.

"It's like being a player at a club, something has gone on at board level, you still have to get up, do your job, be professional," O'Brien said.

And Cooke says he has noted that unease. "I want to see pride back in Irish football, I want us to be proud of our teams and players again after what had gone on, but that can't happen without real change," Cooke said.

It's unclear if Cooke will be unopposed for the treasurer role.

Long-time FAI delegate Denis Cruise had been expected to compete for the Honorary Secretary post but he has backed away. Gerry Gorman from the North East Football League and the Armed Forces rep on the FAI board, Gerry McEneaney, are also said to be interested in the secretary position.

Defending John Delaney, Gorman labelled fan protests at the Euro 2020 qualifier at home to Georgia as "moronic".

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