FAI row: 'The GAA wouldn’t get away with being run by people without knowledge of the sport'

FAI council member John O’Regan has echoed the concerns of colleague Nixon Morton by insisting only intervention by Fifa will prevent civil war erupting at committee level.
FAI row: 'The GAA wouldn’t get away with being run by people without knowledge of the sport'
FAI council member, and secretary of Kerry District League, John O'Regan says that 'Football decisions should be taken by football people.'

FAI council member John O’Regan has echoed the concerns of colleague Nixon Morton by insisting only intervention by Fifa will prevent civil war erupting at committee level.

The veteran secretary of Kerry District League, who represents the Munster FA on council, is one of almost 30 legislators on the brink of being forced out under the terms of the State’s bailout deal.

That package for restoring and expanding government grants over the next four years to €35m, agreed in a Memo of Understanding between FAI chairman Roy Barrett and Sports Minister Shane Ross on January 30, has yet to be rubberstamped by members ahead of next month’s deadline.

Mr O’Regan suggests the new FAI hierarchy face a battle to acquire the mandatory two-third majority of votes at an EGM unless the changes, which will also see independent directors hold sway at board level, are reviewed.

His assertion comes as Mr Ross last night received six parliamentary questions from Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry on the governance forms, including probes around the appointment of Mr Barrett in January, shortly before fellow Visionary Group members Gary Owens and Niall Quinn took over both senior executive roles on an interim basis.

“Football decisions should be taken by football people,” Mr O’Regan said.

“The GAA wouldn’t get away with being run by people without knowledge of the sport. That’s why they are so strong in the community and I’d fear for soccer if we went away from that.

"I am democratically elected annually to council, yet we have a minister who was voted out by his constituency in the last election casting football people aside.

“He seemed delighted last July when we strongly ratified Aidan Horan’s Governance Review Group (GRG) recommendations. People seem to forget that everyone, from Fifa to Uefa and Sport Ireland, endorsed those reforms.

“Long-standing council members like myself accepted that we’d have to depart within three years but suddenly that all shifted in January.

"That, to me and many others, is unfair. People at grassroots level are fed up of being kept in the dark and were maybe reluctant to speak up but Nixon’s letter to Fifa and Uefa has my full support. Something will have to be done.”

According to the minister and the FAI directors, on the basis of the statement they released yesterday following Tuesday night’s board meeting, renegotiating the deal is a non-runner.

“The board have unanimously agreed to proceed with its plans to develop a strategy incorporating a planned restructuring, supported by the required constitutional reform for the benefit of everyone involved in football in Ireland,” they said before offering, in light of Mr Morton’s missive, to make themselves available to “engage in dialogue with any stakeholder with constructive input during this process”.

It was their reference to “implementing the highest standards of corporate governance” that caught the eye of Mr MacSharry.

The Sligo-based TD, like Mr Morton and Mr O’Regan, is not criticising the business acumen of the new trio, yet does question the selection procedures.

“The lack of process to these recruits already gives a grubby complexion to what’s supposed to be a fresh era for the FAI,” said Mr MacSharry. “The last thing we want is want is a new ‘old’ FAI, so soon after the last regime.”

Mr Ross last night addressed one of the queries, denying he played a role at the eleventh hour in Mr Barrett filling the vacancy of first-ever independent chairman. Mr Morton had floated the idea in his letter of “external influences” proving decisive.

Mr MacSharry also wants clarity on why Mr Ross changed the goalposts of council eligibility and board composition between the GRP and MOU.

Meanwhile, champions Dundalk have posted a loss of €1.2m for 2019. The latest deficit accumulates losses of close to €2m since American investors Peak6 bought the current League of Ireland champions.

It is understood Waterford manager Alan Reynolds is to join the Lilywhites as Vinny Perth’s assistant. Ruaidhrí Higgins officially left the role to become opposition analyst for ex-Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny in the Ireland fold.

Unlike in Mr Kenny’s exit, Dundalk received compensation from the FAI for Mr Higgins.

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