FAI soap opera rumbles on and on

By David Prendeville

The FAI has taken one small step, it would seem, to having their funding reinstated by ratifying the 78 recommendations put forward by the FAI Governance Review, at their EGM held in Dunboyne on the 20th of July.

These recommendations, issued as part of a report that was a joint effort of Sport Ireland and the FAI, alters the board make-up of the latter, amongst other things. These changes were passed by a close to unanimous vote of 116 of the 120 members. 

While that has been seen as a step in the right direction by some, there is still an unmistakable taste of the old guard left by the fact that subsequent to the meeting Donal Conway confirmed he will stand unopposed for re-election as president.

The Minister for Sport Shane Ross has been a vocal critic of the FAI of late and has continued to be so in light of Conway’s decision to run once more. Ross, speaking on the Today with Miriam show, said that the FAI’s funding should not be reissued until all the people who oversaw their recent problems were gone. 

Prior to the EGM, as reported by RTE, Ross had written a letter to Conway asking him to withdraw his nomination for re-election. In the letter, Ross suggested that Conway was reneging on an earlier commitment to step aside as part of the major reform necessary. Ross stated that: “Together with your decision to appoint former FAI employee and loyalist, Noel Mooney to the post of General Manager, this development means that the new regime has a very old look about it.”

The FAI’s response to this was that keeping Conway as president adheres to the recommendations in the report. They stated: “in accordance with the report, endorsed by the FAI and Sport Ireland, two members of the current board have been nominated by AGM members to stand for the positions of president and vice president. Only one nomination for the position of president has been forthcoming from AGM members whereas three nominations have been received for the role of vice president.” 

Subsequent to the EGM, Ross added further to his criticism, stating in a column in the Sunday Independent: “Accountability can go out the window. Vigilance can disappear. Pals keep pals on boards. Expenses become lax. Annual accounts are not produced in time for scheduled meetings. Numerous inquiries or forensic audits are required. All familiar sins in the FAI. Conway’s decision to stay on – even if unopposed – is mind-boggling.”

The Aviva Stadium.
Photo: Eugene Carolan.

It looks like this sad soap opera will go on and on. Football fans can hopefully find some welcome distraction in the return of the Premier League on the 9th of August.

Ireland play their next Euro 2020 qualifier on September 5th, when they will be taking on Switzerland in the Aviva. Some good news for the Irish team was 17-year-old Dubliner Troy Parrott starting and impressing for Spurs in their recent friendly with Juventus. Hopefully he’s set for a bright future in the green shirt and may break into the Ireland senior squad sooner rather than later.