Sport Soccer

Thursday 23 January 2020

Shane Ross demands FAI commitment to reform as John Earley re-enters boardroom mix


Ross has his sights trained on the FAI Council, informing new board chairman Roy Barrett that he should look at the structure of the body which elects members to key positions. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Ross has his sights trained on the FAI Council, informing new board chairman Roy Barrett that he should look at the structure of the body which elects members to key positions. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Sports minister Shane Ross has told the FAI and UEFA that Irish soccer's governing body must show total commitment to reform if they want long-term Government support.

But fresh scrutiny has been placed on the FAI's response to their governance crisis after it emerged that ex-board member John Earley has been put forward for a berth on the international & high performance committee which sits for the first time today.

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After meeting with high-ranking UEFA officials at Leinster House to find a short-term solution for the cash-strapped body, Minister Ross said the FAI need to introduce "more democracy" in their council structures before permanent State support can be justified.

Schoolboys Football Association of Ireland (SFAI) head Earley - a member of the board led by John Delaney - stood down last month after coming under pressure to follow the lead of president Donal Conway by stepping away from the top table.

Earley said he was doing so "in the interests of facilitating a new beginning for the FAI" and for the restoration of funding.

The Tipperary native, who joined the FAI board in 2015, asserted that he was on the board to ensure the schoolboy game flourished but had to "take ownership" for his part of the collective responsibility.

In his parting statement, he said he had only ever worked for the betterment of the game and that he hoped to "continue in that vein outside of the FAI board".

However, Earley's nomination for the international committee as the representative of the SFAI has caused some disquiet amongst other members who only learned the full make-up of the list yesterday.

Junior council secretary Dennis Cruise, who signed a March letter supporting Delaney, is also due to join a grouping led by Ruud Dokter.

The expectation that other former board members will have places on committees has raised questions about the structures below the revitalised board which has been strengthened by the appointment of new independent directors.

Ross has his sights trained on the FAI Council, informing new board chairman Roy Barrett that he should look at the structure of the body which elects members to key positions.

But the minister has also been notified of concerns about the method of filling committee seats and the influence of power bases with long serving executives.

On Saturday week, a new FAI President will be elected to replace Donal Conway and they must come from the Council ranks.

FAI governance reforms introduced at an EGM last summer decreed that council delegates who have served for over a decade can only stay on for three more years.

"We've made it very clear to UEFA and to the chairman of the FAI today that we want to see more democracy in the election of the Council. That's very important," said Ross.

When asked if the guests at Leinster House accepted that it was a legitimate issue, he replied: "There was absolutely no dissent on that whatsoever. We made certain conditions on any restoring of funding and we mentioned that among the conditions."

Barrett - who was only appointed to the FAI board last week - suggested he took the comments on board and that a reform process was already well underway.

"There have been significant reforms," he said, "The whole governance reform process had involved a lot I think and now really it's the job of the board to get on with that and that reform programme.

Asked about the Ross request, he said: "We all want more reform and we all want more improvement."

The FAI's immediate concern is securing a package that gives staff certainty about their futures.

Wages are due next Friday, and the hierarchy anticipate no problems with that but the mere fact it has become a talking point highlights the extent to which the FAI are in bother.

Junior minister Brendan Griffin said he was 'confident' wages would be paid to staff next week but admitted that month to month uncertainty was not healthy for employees.

Irish Independent

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