FAI plan runs into schoolboys trouble

John Earley

The numbers are not adding up for the FAI in their bid to push through governance reforms next month to restore state funding.

Causing the uncertainty is the failure of the review report, published last Friday, to safeguard a position on the new board for a representative from schoolboy football.

John Earley, who sat on the board for four years as the chair of the underage committee, quit on Wednesday after he refused to endorse the proposals.

The report only recommends that the Schoolboy Football Association of Ireland (SFAI), of which Earley is chairman, share the place on the new board with the women’s football committee (WFC).

As gender balance is foremost in the charter for change, it could mean the SFAI waiting eight years to have a voice at the top table, despite them being the largest affiliate, overseeing 120,000 players.

As a result, they won’t be backing the review and that spells bad news for the FAI.

They need 140 of the 206 eligible voters to pass the reforms at their annual general meeting of the FAI on July 27.

Given the SFAI has 36 votes, plus most of the votes among the 24 underage girls’ leagues, the FAI faces an uphill battle to get their plan over the line. It is understood other affiliates aren’t entirely sold on the report yet.

FAI president Donal Conway, who claims there is no Plan B to the raft of changes, will attend the annual general meeting of the SFAI in Wicklow on Saturday. He will be told in no uncertain terms that only a guaranteed place for the SFAI will earn their support.

“We have to show a united front on this,” said Pat Kelly, vice-chairman of the SFAI, who represents Waterford. “Schoolboy football, the biggest part of the game, is getting messed about and now is the time to do something about it.”

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