FAI board set to discuss critical email sent by council member Nixon Morton

The FAI board will today review a letter sent by a member of their council to Fifa and Uefa expressing fears that Irish football faces “losing it sovereignty” if proposed reforms linked to a State bailout are implemented.
FAI board set to discuss critical email sent by council member Nixon Morton
The FAI headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin

The FAI board will today review a letter sent by a member of their council to Fifa and Uefa expressing fears that Irish football faces “losing it sovereignty” if proposed reforms linked to a State bailout are implemented.

Nixon Morton from the FAI Schools has highlighted what he considers a number of serious concerns since the association’s last council meeting in December, including the process for appointing Gary Owens and his interim deputy chief executive Niall Quinn.

The legislator has pointed out that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in January by new FAI chairman Roy Barrett to secure a €35m rescue deal obliterated some critical changes of the Governance Review Group (GRP) report fully ratified by council only last July.

In particular, he is aghast that the clause allowing council members with 10 years’ service see out their tenancy in three years was brought forward to the next AGM. Nixon was nominated to the council five years ago.

That the portion of independent directors on the new 12-person board spiked from four to six, with the independent chairman holding the casting vote, seems to have especially irked the administrator. It is yet to be established what level of support his stance has from council colleagues.

“The consequences for our association of acceding to a number of the key demands in the Memorandum of Understanding, signed on January 30, are extraordinarily serious,” Morton told his fellow 78 council members in an email yesterday morning.

A two-thirds majority of the 206 eligible votes is required at an EGM to rubberstamp the MOU.

Plans to stage the meeting on April 30 were stymied by the coronavirus, thereby delaying the lifting of an embargo on State funding.

The suspension of grants, including a significant sum towards paying the salaries of 60 development officers, has applied from April 2019 when Sport Ireland expressed their dissatisfaction at the FAI’s explanation offered for the €100,000 bridging loan given by former chief executive John Delaney two years earlier.

Until the MOU is approved, the FAI are relying on the refinancing deal they hatched with Bank of Ireland in March to ease cashflow. Owens has admitted that the FAI, already carrying debts of over €60m, was relying on a strong end of 2020 to boost sluggish revenues.

Morton has become the first council member to publicly air his grievances, addressing his letter to Sarah Solemale (Fifa) and Yann Hafner (Uefa) — senior officials who met with sports minister Shane Ross last July as the financial and governance crisis at the FAI raged.

He cites Fifa article 19 (1) which states: “Each member association shall manage its affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties,”

He added: “As ordinary football people, we resolutely object to the new conditions being foisted upon us.”

On the recruitment of Owens and Quinn in January, shortly after their Visionary Group colleague Barrett became the new chairman, the letter said: “We are not questioning the abilities of those appointed or their commitment to the game of football in Ireland.

“The concern being expressed here is with the process around these appointments and did this process meet the highest standards of Governance?”

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