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James Kelly of the Leinster FA, and a member of the Council, has written to the FAI's chief operating officer Rea Walshe seeking the special meeting, saying he has the backing of more than 45 members of the 78-person representative body (stock picture)

James Kelly of the Leinster FA, and a member of the Council, has written to the FAI's chief operating officer Rea Walshe seeking the special meeting, saying he has the backing of more than 45 members of the 78-person representative body (stock picture)

James Kelly of the Leinster FA, and a member of the Council, has written to the FAI's chief operating officer Rea Walshe seeking the special meeting, saying he has the backing of more than 45 members of the 78-person representative body (stock picture)

Members of the FAI Council have called for an emergency meeting to be convened to "discuss a number of issues of concern" following another turbulent week for the Association.

James Kelly of the Leinster FA, and a member of the Council, has written to the FAI's chief operating officer Rea Walshe seeking the special meeting, saying he has the backing of more than 45 members of the 78-person representative body.

Kelly wrote to all his fellow council members early last week asking them to support his call for the meeting as opposition to the agreement with previous sports minister Shane Ross grows. The memorandum of understanding signed by FAI chairperson Roy Barrett includes a number of commitments which must be adhered to before State funding to the Association is restored.

On Thursday, Green Party leader and Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport, Eamon Ryan, said the FAI "must convene an EGM this month" and introduce the rule changes agreed with the previous Government. These changes include increasing the number of independent board members from four to six, meaning there would be as many independent board members as football representatives. It was also agreed any council members with more than 10 years service would leave their roles at September's delayed AGM.

The measures were agreed as part of a deal guaranteeing the FAI more than €30m in government support bailing out the Association last January. Further financial support, including a portion of the State's €70m Covid-19 relief fund for sport, will not be made available to the FAI until it implements the rule changes laid out in the memorandum of understanding, Sport Ireland confirmed on Friday.

But, in his letter to council members, Kelly said that the MOU contained a "ticking time bomb". He said it could "expose the game of football in Ireland to the real danger of excessive control by outside interests ceding ownership of the game to these outside parties and resulting in a complete loss of sovereignty".

He said that it was "incumbent" on the council to have a meeting to "express their views in a constructive manner".

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry raised the concerns of FAI board and council members in the Dáil last week, saying a 50/50 split of the board would amount to relinquishing control to forces outside of football. The Sligo-Leitrim TD questioned the authority of Barrett to sign the MOU agreed with Ross, UEFA and Bank of Ireland. Barrett has hit back at the TD for using Dáil privilege to claim the Association was being left open to "corruption".

Kelly is understood to have received the backing of several influential members of the council, including MEP Mick Wallace, and leading clubs such as Cork City and St Patrick's Athletic.

Wallace, who is the Wexford Youths representative on the FAI council, yesterday told the Sunday Independent an even split on the board would see the Association relinquish control of its affairs.

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"God knows a bit of business-sense wouldn't go astray in the place, provided the independent board members were good," said Wallace. "Now it is divided in to six and six, so football is losing its voice. It is unheard of in world football and in any sporting organisation in Ireland.

"I think the Government has handled it very badly. The football community has stayed quiet for a very long time because they were on the back foot because of the s***e around (former FAI CEO) John Delaney. It has gone too far now and I think it is important football people run the football association. Eight and four is fine, but six and six is ridiculous and I don't agree with it.

"The Government need to look at it differently. Shane Ross was on a bit of a solo run, I don't think he handled it well and the whole thing needs to be looked at afresh.

"Obviously we need good football people involved, and there needs to be an independent element to it, but the majority needs to be football people."

On Friday, Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy insisted the statutory body will resist any attempts to change the MOU.

"Sport Ireland has not paid out any of the €5.8m grant funding to the FAI in 2020 to date," he said. "Furthermore, no funding is scheduled to be paid in advance of the FAI's EGM. To avail of the funding support, the FAI is aware of the need to make the essential amendments to its rules and constitution in line with its commitments in the MOU.

"These changes are also required as a pre-requisite to the FAI applying to Sport Ireland for any portion of the additional €70m of new Government funding to support the sports sector through the Covid-19 crisis."

It comes as the Sunday Independent today revealed FAI chief operating officer Rea Walshe was appointed to be the main liaison between the ODCE and other bodies investigating corporate governance at the Association, despite concerns about a conflict of interest. Walshe was previously paid €2,500 to help former CEO John Delaney with a personal legal matter, against best corporate governance practice and Law Society guidelines. Last week she was reappointed COO after successfully coming through an interview process despite questions about her role in the previous administration.

The FAI declined to comment on any of the latest developments when contacted yesterday.

Meanwhile, the FAI board has written to the new sports ministers, Catherine Martin and Jack Chambers, seeking a meeting "to discuss a number of matters of genuine concern to the Association". The letter was sent on Friday.


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