Thursday 22 August 2019

Schoolboys summit set to highlight task facing the FAI

SFAI chair John Earley resigned from his position on the board. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
SFAI chair John Earley resigned from his position on the board. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Daniel McDonnell and John Fallon

The outcome of next Saturday's meeting of the Schoolboys Football Association of Ireland (SFAI) will give the FAI an early indication of the task they face to get reform proposals passed.

Friday's release of the Governance Review Group report into the power structures of Irish football has not been met with unanimous approval.

The challenge for the FAI board is to get 140 out of 206 delegates at July's AGM to approve a document which lays out 78 recommendations.

Evidence of disquiet came on the eve of the release when SFAI chair John Earley resigned from his position on the board.

He is unhappy that the SFAI no longer have a guaranteed seat on the new 12-person top table. They will effectively have to rotate their spot with a representative from women's football under the planned changes.

It is expected that a motion will be tabled at the SFAI's AGM this Saturday to bloc-vote against the FAI's reforms unless they are granted a place on the new board.

Each of the 32 leagues has a vote, along with four more committee members, but their powerbase extends into the female sector. All bar two of the 24 underage girls' leagues are run under their auspices.


That spikes the volume of potential dissenters dangerously close to 68, the mark necessary to veto the proposals. Other affiliates have yet to make their stance known. There has been disquiet within the amateur ranks about a proposal to ditch long-serving members of the FAI council in three years' time.

FAI President Donal Conway insists there is no Plan B contingency to the reboot but some form of compromise is required for buy-in to be attained from the schoolboy sector. Mr Conway is due to attend the AGM in Wicklow, where the backlash from the rank-and-file will be aired.

Veteran legislator Pat Kelly is adamant that Earley had no option except to quit the board on principle and firmly believes people power is capable of righting what he believes is a glaring wrong of the governance review.

"All of the leagues need to show a united front on this issue," said the Waterford official, due to retire as vice-chairman of the SFAI at Saturday's summit.

"Schoolboy football, the biggest segment of the game, is getting messed about."

It's understood that the review team were aware of unhappiness in schoolboy football circles when the detail of initial drafts became known.

The governance report does offer the SFAI a further four seats on the FAI Council which will expand in size from 58 to 79.

FAI sources have indicated that confirmation of the addition of those four members came relatively late in the process and it was hoped that it would head off any dissent.

Critics of plans to introduce a gender balance on all major FAI committees feel it is too much too soon. The blueprint calls for at least 33pc of seats on all the decision-making bodies to be filled by women.

Players have been assigned two new seats on the council, but the PFAI hierarchy feel their wing deserves a higher level representation.

Irish Independent

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