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Top civil servant Watt takes place on FAI board

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Robert Watt. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Robert Watt. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Robert Watt. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

The FAI has appointed Robert Watt, one of the highest ranked civil servants in the country, to its board.

A statement from Abbotstown confirmed that Mr Watt joins Roy Barrett, Liz Joyce and Catherine Guy as the fourth independent director at the top table.

Mr Watt is the secretary-general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

There was speculation in football circles earlier this year that he was in the frame for the board seat left vacant after the FAI went through the initial stage of reform to refresh its main decision-making body. Mr Watt's name re-emerged in recent weeks.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe last year described his as "one of the most talented people I have ever worked with" and the new arrival's strong link with Government is striking in the context of the ongoing political debate around the Abbotstown organisation.

Concerns

Football elected FAI board members and council delegates have raised concerns about the terms of January's rescue deal that kept the troubled association afloat.

It stipulates that the number of independent directors must increase from four to six, and that council members with more than 10 years' service should stand down immediately.

Both Sport Ireland and the Government last week asserted the FAI will not have funding restored until these changes are approved.

However Mr Barrett, the new independent chair, and his backers are under pressure to secure the 75pc majority necessary at an EGM with critics claiming a six v six breakdown on the board with Mr Barrett holding a casting vote represented a loss of control to outside forces.

Unhappy members of the football family were hopeful a change in government would lead to the reviewing of memorandum terms but that has not proved to be the case.

Mr Watt, an experienced political operator, will now enter a debate which is rumbling on. The football fan is involved in the under-age section of his local club, Drumcondra.

He said he was "honoured and delighted" to take up the role, with Mr Barrett stating Mr Watt would "play a vital role as we deliver real change for football in Ireland".

Irish Independent