Sport Ireland has said it supports Minister Shane Ross’ call for FAI president Donal Conway not to seek re-election to the board of the football association of the football association.
It emerged this week that Mr Conway was nominated to run unopposed to keep his position as president for another year. The election for the role is to take place at the FAI AGM on July 27. An EGM this weekend will see members vote on proposals for wide-ranging governance reform.
Speaking to the Oireachtas committee on transport, tourism, and sport, both Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy and its chairman Kieran Mulvey said they agreed with Mr Ross’s assertion that the composition of the new FAI board should not contain any former members.
Mr Mulvey said the FAI president had previously written to Mr Ross to indicate the whole board would step down.
“We understood that very clearly and unequivocally to mean they wouldn’t be standing up again, to put it that way,” he said.
So we have no difficulty in regard to the statement made by the minister and it would be the view of Sport Ireland, the board of Sport Ireland, and the office of Sport Ireland that the minister’s wish in this regard would be listened to very strongly and adhered to.
Responding to Fine Gael TD Noel Rock, who said the election of the FAI president should not take place in “a vacuum of information” without audited accounts, Mr Treacy said they are still awaiting a number of reports on governance at the FAI.
“I think the full picture will be on the table in terms of what possible liabilities the organisation may have, which may show up pieces that are embarrassing to the former board,” he said.
“It would be our preferred and articulated view that no one from the board will stand and a new beginning would happen.”
Mr Treacy was also critical of the FAI’s decision to hire former employee Noel Mooney as general manager on a six-month secondment from Uefa. “I articulated to the FAI before that appointment that what the FAI needed was a public face that the public could say, ‘Yeah, that’s a good move’.
“Someone with experience in terms of change management, someone with experience in terms of leading an organisation. And that decision wasn’t made.
“In terms of public trust, it didn’t fulfil that criteria,” said Mr Treacy.
“There are assets he has that he will deliver for the FAI, but in terms of public trust, what the FAI needed was someone with profile, someone with independence, experience, someone who people would look at and say, ‘Yeah, that’s a really good move, he’ll take the organisation through that change management, he’ll be able to talk to the media, he’d be able to talk to this committee with authority’.
“They’re the type of things that the FAI needed to put in place all at once. And that didn’t happen, it was a missed opportunity.”
Mr Mulvey revealed Sport Ireland had “considerable difficulty” appointing forensic auditors and accountants to probe the FAI’s books after auditors Deloitte reported the association to the Companies Registration Office over alleged contraventions of the Companies Act.
“I did personally contact a number of firms after that, and whereas they did engage in conversation, they were reluctant to get involved.
I think that largely related to reputational risk on the behalf of some of these accountancy firms in regard to the fact that the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement was involved and Deloitte put up a notice regarding them so I think it was a reluctance.
“We eventually did get a firm from Northern Ireland, who are now undertaking that forensic audit for us and we expect them to report by the end of September.”