FAI President: 'I've always held out an olive branch to Minister Ross'

Following his re-election as FAI President and the filling of eight places on a new 12-person board, Donal Conway has said that he believes stability has been returned to the embattled organisation.

FAI President: 'I've always held out an olive branch to Minister Ross'

Following his re-election as FAI President and the filling of eight places on a new 12-person board, Donal Conway has said that he believes stability has been returned to the embattled organisation.

Speaking at a press conference after today’s AGM in Trim, he said: “There’s a lot more stability than there was at the outset so I think it’s fair to say the organisation has stabilised.

“There are investigations in play but with the production of the Governance Review Group report, it gave us a real clear journey. Stage One was last weekend’s EGM and its adoption and stage two today was the implementation of some of the rules so that we now have eight members of a 12-person board. And we’ll get to work very quickly, beginning with a meeting on Tuesday, on getting the final four members of the full board.”

Asked what his message would be to Minister for Sport Shane Ross who has strongly opposed his re-election, the FAI President replied: “That I’m sure Minister Ross and Donal Conway want to get to the same place: a governing body for sport with governance of the highest standard.

"There may still be some disagreement on how best to effect that but the FAI are willing to talk to Mr Ross at any stage about how best to move forward.”

Conway confirmed that the Minister met with FIFA’s Sara Solemale, UEFA’s Thierry Favre and Yann Hafner and the FAI’s Niamh O’Donoghue on Friday.

“They had a constructive discussion,” he said. “I wasn’t there but I got a report, and UEFA and FIFA reinforced their situation that choices about who leads the executive team or the officer Board would be matters for the member association. Minister Ross stuck to the position he has adopted over the last number of weeks.

At any juncture, talking about Minister Ross, I’ve always held out an olive branch. I’m not going to press that into a potential conflict or create a sense of impending threat - the fact that the meeting took place and that conversations took place is good. Both sides understand their respective positions better. That’s always good.

”Through Niamh, we would have made it clear that we were honouring the report. It was a joint partnership between ourselves and Sport Ireland. Sport Ireland roundly endorsed it and adopted it on the 21st of June when we presented it to the media. We haven’t changed since. It is still the report, we are still guided by it. We made that clear to Minister Ross that that is where we are.”

While Conway was returned unopposed as President at today’s AGM, incumbent Vice-President Noel Fitzroy took himself out of the race for re-election when it became clear that, with former board member John Earley being nominated again by the Schoolboys constituency, the FAI were on course to fall foul of the Governance Review Group recommendation that a maximum of two members of the outgoing board might be accommodated on the new interim board.

Addressing delegates, Fitzroy said he found himself in “an impossible position” and was obliged to make a decision which while “devastating to me personally” he was making “in the best interests of our Association.”

In the subsequent election, Paul Cooke was appointed Vice-President after defeating Gerry McAnaney by 80 votes to 57, with two spoiled votes.

Meanwhile, the six people elected to the board by their respective constituencies are: Martin Heraghty and Dick Shakespeare (National Leagues), John Finnegan and Dave Moran (Amateur Adult Football), John Earley (Schoolboys and Schoolgirls) and Joe O’Brien (Others and Affiliates). Four further independent members will be added to the 12-person board in the coming weeks.

Commenting afterwards on Fitzroy’s withdrawal, Conway said that it had been vital to maintain the integrity of the Governance Report which he described as “a key document” for the FAI.

“Ultimately whatever actions we take we wanted them aligned with that report,” he said. “That meant that, as it recommends one or a maximum of two board members going forward or transitioning, we had to consider matters when those conditions changed.”

Conway said that, in the previous 24 hours, Fitzroy had assured him he would “do the right thing”.

“But it was a difficult situation for Noel and I was conscious of that. I’m quite close to Noel, President and Vice-president aside, so final confirmation - though I knew it would have been a real possibility - was this morning.”

He went on: “I know Noel wants to stay involved in football administration, and I would like to see him continue in football administration. But I can’t hand Noel a guarantee of anything.”

Asked if he could perhaps see Fitzroy sitting on the new Football Management Committee, Conway said: “I would think that’s what he has an interest in, so that has to be looked at. My own personal view on it is I think Noel should have a much longer time than that around the administration of the game.”

Reiterating that he himself will definitely not stand for re-election in a year’s time, Conway also allowed for the possibility that, should circumstances change, he could even step down before the end of the interim board’s 12-month tenure.

”I talked about the key stakeholders and our relationship with them,” he said. “We get to work next week. We set ourselves a work programme. If my presence on the Board inhibits what the Association is trying to do, whether it is me or Paul (Cooke) or anybody else, that’s clearly something we have to look at."

Meanwhile, a resolution to re-appoint Deloitte as the FAI auditors was adjourned –as was the AGM itself – until the FAI are in a position to present the 2018 accounts to members.

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