John Treacy believes there is no reason why the FAI can not mirror the example set by the Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) in cleaning house and transforming into a beacon of good sporting governance in the next two years.
Comparisons between the bodies have been rife throughout the controversy engulfing football’s body here given the fact both suffered under the leadership of overly powerful figureheads and boards with little or no say or sway.
The OFI has rebranded since the Rio ticketing scandal and Pat Hickey’s disappearance from the movement here and abroad, voting in a new president and board and employing a new CEO. The old script has been pulped, replaced with a new and transparent narrative. And all in the space of just two years.
“What emerged in the Olympic Federation was real leadership and I think that played a huge role, and people with high standards in terms of corporate governance, transparency, integrity — all those pieces are hugely important,” said Treacy.
“That’s what needs to emerge as we’re going forward, that someone to step forward and lead the organisation and a board to step forward to lead the organisation. And that is possible. Without a shadow of a doubt, that is possible.
“People need to make sure they have the skills before they step on that board and know what their responsibilities are and I certainly believe, with the right will, that the right things can be done and you can have a good, strong board and all those issues (done), in two years time, three years time.
“You could be looking at a totally different organisation. That is possible.”
Treacy also affirmed that it would be a good idea for those seeking to turn a fresh page in the FAI to consult with Sarah Keane, the OFI’s president whose restoration work there was preceded by a similarly transformative job at Swim Ireland after that body’s many problems.
“Yeah, I think so. Sarah was on the board (of the old Olympic Council of Ireland), didn’t resign when the crisis hit but decided to do something about it and I think that’s a great example and great leadership.
“She had an issue in the swimming as well and she led it from the front as chief executive and had the support of a strong board behind her,” Treacy explained.
“These are really, really important pieces.”
The FAI’s journey from crisis to calm waters has only just begun. Another critical step will be taken, possibly as early as today, when the group appointed by Sport Ireland to review the FAI’s governance begins work under Aidan Horan of the Institute of Public Administration.
After so much breaking news and public appearances, yesterday was quieter, with Treacy confirming shortly after lunch that he had not received any more bolt-from-the-blue communiques from the FAI before adding the rider that it was ‘early in the day yet’.
With John Delaney now on gardening leave — it is Treacy’s understanding that he is not “on the National Sports Campus anymore” — Sport Ireland will work with the current board on what the latter are describing as a reform agenda.
Here again are lessons from the Olympic movement given OCI board members stood for re-election back in 2017 in the wake of their crisis only to be defeated. The widely held hope is that the current FAI board goes but they are entitled to run for election again at July’s AGM.
“That is a possibility,” said Treacy. “But you need to remember the clubs, the leagues, the members that are on the (60-person FAI) Council have a responsibility as well. Everyone has a responsibility. It’s the organisation itself and the clubs and the membership need to take that seriously.
“What has happened can never happen again. What we need is a strong board that exercises control over the organisation and that leads and outlines the policy and strategy for the association. The chief executive then that comes in implements that. That’s what you need.”