SIPTU back demand for FAI reform

SIPTU back demand for FAI reform

SIPTU have fully backed the joint intention of FAI Chairman Roy Barrett and government Ministers for committee reform at the association.

Barrett has faced severe opposition from fellow board members to some elements in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) he agreed with former Sports Minister Shane Ross as part of the €35m bailout deal agreed in January.

Fears have been expressed about ceding ultimate control to independent directors but a letter on Thursday from new Ministers Catherine Martin and Dara Calleary insisted failure to overhaul the constitution would leave state support remaining suspended.

As it stands, the FAI are awaiting last year’s allocation of €1.4m, along with this year’s enhanced pot of €5.8m in Sport Ireland grants.

These monies subsidise half of the salaries of the FAI’s development officers, who are represented by SIPTU.

Thursday’s letter from government buildings also confirmed the release of Covid-19 emergency funding – understood to be around €10m of the overall €40m allocated to three main field sports – is contingent on “necessary conditions to restore public funding being met”.

Efforts by Barrett to host an EGM, where a 75 percent majority is required to pass the reforms, have been stymied by Covid-19.

Denis Hynes, SIPTU’s organiser for the Sports sector, has backed Barrett’s endeavours.

His fellow former Visionary Group colleagues, Gary Owens and Niall Quinn, had also ruled out relaxing the conditions since they arrived into the FAI as interim chief and deputy chief executives respectively.

“We want to see the MoU honoured and any uncertainty over our members’ employment removed,” affirmed Hynes today.

“It must be remembered that before the bailout, the FAI were facing the prospect of making a third of their staff redundant.” Hynes doesn’t view the rule changes, which would see the 12-person board split equally between football and external appointments, with Barrett having the cast vote on major decisions, as a concern.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry TD said on Thursday night the move would lead to “Irish football being privatised”.

“No, I don’t see the FAI being privatised under these changes,” responded Hynes.

“If you’re faced with the choice of losing jobs or introducing extra outside expertise to the board, as was the case in January, a reasonable person would choose the latter. 

"I think the sooner the better the MoU is ratified at an EGM. Passing it is the only show in town.” Barrett, appointed as the FAI’s first-ever independent Chairman, has endured a week of infighting.

He, along with fellow independent directors Liz Joyce and Catherine Guy, stood firm despite grievances raised from the cohort of eight board members elected through their football constituencies.

Barrett is understood to have reacted angrily to a move by President Gerry McAnaney to arrange a conference call with Uefa national associations director Zoltan Lakovic on Monday.

Even though the European governing body suggested a new government might be open to revisiting the MOU, a draft letter to the ministers discussed by the eight didn’t get sent.

While they were digesting legal advice on the matter, Barrett received his endorsement yesterday from Minister Martin, in charge of Media, Tourism, Art, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, along with Junior Minister Dara Calleary.

The MoU, they stressed, was not up for renegotiation.

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