FAI set to reveal first three independent directors

Steps to prevent the Football Association of Ireland descending into insolvency will intensify this week with the announcement of independent directors and a roadmap to financial stability.

FAI set to reveal first three independent directors

Steps to prevent the Football Association of Ireland descending into insolvency will intensify this week with the announcement of independent directors and a roadmap to financial stability.

The cash-strapped body, servicing debts of almost €70m, must source €18m of funding to secure its future.

Executive lead Paul Cooke has admitted that failure to access the require injection could lead to 210 FAI staff going unpaid later this month.

Although sports minister Shane Ross has ruled out “writing a blank cheque” to save the FAI, Government support has convinced Bank of Ireland to supply the cash.

Uefa, through its guaranteed flow of grants and television deals in the coming years, has also proven a vital ally in getting a deal done.

Removing the immediate uncertainty has finally paved the way for independent directors to join the FAI board.

The reform agenda created in the wake of the financial and governance crisis at the FAI includes the addition of external expertise at the top.

Four outsiders — including a chairperson of the 12-person board — were due to be installed in August 2019, but further turmoil at the association caused further delays.

It is understood progress on sealing a rescue package — aided by two meetings with Mr Ross during Christmas week — has facilitated the independent directors’ arrival, though only three may be on board by the time the first announcement is made.

Mr Ross is due to brief Cabinet colleagues on the proposals on Thursday. He appeared to suggest over Christmas that the FAI was beyond salvation, but the consequences of the association going bust are grave. Fifa would likely suspend Ireland’s international teams, while Uefa could bar the Irish team from European competitions this summer.

It is believed the Fine Gael hierarchy, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, are centrally involved in providing the lifeline, but are insisting on further modernisation of the FAI’s structures.

Seven new directors have been elected since July, but the replacement of outgoing president Donal Conway will come from a restricted field.

Candidates must not only be current members of the FAI council, but must also have two years’ experience, ruling out any new blood thrust onto the 79-strong committee.

Cork native Gerry McAnaney is the only contender to so far publicly declare his intention to run for the vacancy.

Other eligible candidates have until 10 days before the emergency general meeting on January 25 to be nominated by two EGM members.

Retired army commandant McAnaney was beaten by 80 votes to 57 by Mr Cooke in the election for vice-president at an AGM last July.

Mr Cooke has assumed dual roles since John Foley withdrew from taking the CEO position at the last minute in December 2019.

Out-half headache for crucial Racing test

Who can Munster turn to for must-win Paris clash?

The most immediate issue facing Johann van Graan will be who plays at out-half on Sunday in a crucial Heineken Champions Cup clash in Paris against Racing 92.

Tyler Bleyendaal remains absent with a neck injury while JJ Hanrahan is recovering from a hamstring injury picked up in the middle festive fixture against Leinster.

Munster say that Hanrahan is ‘rehabbing well’ but it remains to be seen if he will be fit to start.

One option, if he can’t play, would be to switch Rory Scannell from centre to the out-half position which he has covered in recent games but has not been required to fill.

Another option would be to throw Tipperary native Ben Healy in at the deep end but the U-20 Six Nations grand slam winner has only played one game for Munster.

That was the home PRO14 loss against Edinburgh in November, while he has been 24th man on occasion in the Heineken Champions Cup but was not required.

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