The new Football Association of Ireland board is set to have its first female director after the Schoolboys FAI (SFAI) last night proposed Ursula Scully as their nominee to replace John Earley.
Plans for Dublin District Schoolboys League’ chief Paddy Dempsey to go forward were scuppered on Sunday when he withdrew just 24 hours after being proposed by the SFAI executive.
The DDSL had publicly backed John Delaney in March when the former FAI chief executive started coming under pressure amid media revelations over corporate and financial governance.
Scully is secretary of the North Tipperary Schoolchildren’s League (NTSFL), the same county Earley emerged from into the corridors of power.
After working at Kerry Group as a quality services manager, Mrs Scully established her own business in 1999 with her husband. She graduated from the University of Limerick with a qualification in entrepreneurship management.
Scully will have to win an election against a nominee from the women’s FAI but the SFAI’s numerical dominance on that committee will make her appointment a certainty.
“Should I be elected by the constituency I will represent all schoolchildren throughout Ireland equally,” she said following a teleconference of the SFAI’s executive last night.
“Furthermore, I believe my professional background and skillset will be an asset to the FAI Board should I be elected.”
Under rule, following the governance review group proposals, four of the FAI’s 12 directors should be female by 2021.
Scully won’t be short of work, once her place is formally ratified at the reconvened FAI AGM on Sunday week. Dissolving their stake of the Lansdowne Road stadium, or at least a portion of it, is becoming more of a reality for the FAI.
Such a nuclear option was ruled out by the FAI only two weeks ago on the day that their shocking accounts were published but their struggles since in securing a refinancing deal has worsened the outlook.
Leaving Monday’s summit with Sports Minister Shane Ross, executive lead Paul Cooke refused to comment on whether the FAI had reached insolvency.
Uefa, who Ross has set up a meeting with in January, had already urged the FAI to offload their share of the Dublin 4 stadium.
Their head of finance Josef Keller spent the summer assessing the FAI’s monetary woes during several visits to Abbotstown and felt sufficiently pessimistic to recommend that drastic course.
Under the arrangement entered into when the FAI and IRFU took control of the stadium following the rebuild a decade ago, the football body hold a 42.5% stake.
The government, as the main contributor towards the €460m development costs, carry a “first charge”, meaning they must sanction any sale.
With a general election looming early in 2020, and the very existence of the country’s only football organisation in serious jeopardy, a solution will have to be found.
Rather than, as Minister Ross describes it, “writing a blank cheque”, the Government will likely oversee a more elaborate rescue deal in return for greater control over how the organisation is run.
It is not unprecedented across football. Back in 2004, as Leeds United faced a similar financial crisis, they sold their home ground of Elland Road and training centre at Thorpe Arch.
The buy-back option, which Leeds invoked in 2017, will probably also be a feature of the FAI deal.