Mutiny from FAI Council against conditions of Government bailout

Today’s move follows a week of rancour within the FAI Board
Mutiny from FAI Council against conditions of Government bailout
FAI headquarters at Abbotstown. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Moves are being made to host a special council meeting of the FAI amid growing disquiet over the ceding power to external directors.

James Kelly, a member of the Leinster Football Association (LFA), has today called upon fellow members of the FAI Council to host a summit.

Should the junior football administrator acquire 20 signatures among the 79-member Council, FAI top brass are obliged under rule to stage the meeting within 20 days. The LFA alone have 10 seats on Council.

Moreover, again under the current rules, the Council possesses the power to remove any director from the FAI Board on a two-thirds majority of attendees.

Today’s move follows a week of rancour within the FAI Board over the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) attached to the Government’s €35m bailout deal.

That pact was brokered on January 30 between then Sports Minister Shane Ross and Roy Barrett, the FAI’s first-ever chairman.

Barrett is one of three newly-appointed independent directors to the Board but the eight other members, elected through the football constituency, have serious concerns about elements of the MoU.

Specifically, the number of football directors currently on the 12-person Board would reduce from eight to six, with the other six drawn from external channels and Barrett holding the casting vote.

President Gerry McAnaney and his vice-president Paul Cooke last week consulted with Uefa national associations director Zoltan Lakovic on the matter, with the European governing body suggesting a new government may revisit the deal.

It seemed that prospect was mothballed on Thursday when new sports ministers Catherine Martin and Dara Calleary expressed in writing their commitment to the MoU.

Although reinstatement of state-aid is conditional on these changes, it will only occur if 75% of delegates vote in favour at an EGM.

In his circular to colleagues today, Mr Kelly – also a local councillor in Co Laois – outlined concerns about ‘snail-like progress’ on recruiting a new FAI chief executive, key committees failing to function, and a lack of updates from the hierarchy on governance reforms.

He added: “It cannot be overemphasised how significant is the threat posed by the ticking time bomb contained in the MoU signed by Shane Ross and Roy Barrett. Two elements, if implemented, would expose the game of football in Ireland to the real danger of excessive control by outside interests ceding ownership of the game to these outside parties and resulting in a complete loss of sovereignty and removing the key role played by senior Council.

“Our democratically-elected directors at Board level have taken a strong principled stance on the key issues of sovereignty and Council make up.

“I think it behoves senior Council to engage with the Board in accordance with the role bestowed on senior Council members by Rule 15.” 

Mr Kelly has requested swift responses from Council members on whether they’d agree to a meeting. The FAI Board are due to meet later today.

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