Adoption of reform package vital for sponsorship funds, says FAI

Failure to endorse reforms could endanger sponsorship contracts, president warns

From left,  Kieran Mulvey, chairman of Sport Ireland, Donal Conway, president of the FAI, and Aidan Horan, chairman of the governance review group, at FAI headquarters in Abbotstown. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

From left, Kieran Mulvey, chairman of Sport Ireland, Donal Conway, president of the FAI, and Aidan Horan, chairman of the governance review group, at FAI headquarters in Abbotstown. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

 

A failure to endorse wide-ranging governance reforms could endanger key sponsorship contracts held by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), the organisation’s president has said.

Donal Conway said on Friday that the FAI had been in contact with its sponsors over the course of a prolonged recent period of controversy about how it had been run.

“They’re all looking very carefully at this,” he said. “And their continued involvement with brand FAI is dependent on this kind of a report being adopted.”

Two-thirds of the delegates at the FAI’s agm on July 27th must endorse the reforms suggested in the report of the governance review group, published on Friday, in order for it to be adopted.

With sources suggesting that the vote would be tight, the FAI’s contention that vital sponsorship funds could depend on acceptance of the package will concentrate minds in advance of the vote.

“Brand association with an FAI that fails to adopt a governance report could present a challenge,” Mr Conway said.

The FAI has been dogged by controversy since it emerged earlier this year that former chief executive John Delaney provided it with a €100,000 loan in 2017. Concerns have also been raised in recent times about corporate governance, multiple bank accounts, and other financial matters at the association.

The report recommends reforms to the FAI board structure, including the appointment of four independent directors, expansion of the FAI council, which elects the board, and splitting the roles of president and chairperson. It was written by a five-person group composed of three nominees of Sport Ireland and two from the FAI.

Speaking at the launch of the report at the FAI’s headquarters in Abbotstown, Dublin, Mr Conway emphasised the threat facing the organisation.

“I’d be very seriously concerned for the FAI if this report is rejected,” he said. He also suggested that the FAI’s two parent organisations, Fifa and Uefa, would be watching the result of the agm vote closely.

“Fifa and Uefa provide, in any one year, 20-25 per cent of our funding,” he said. “They will want this.”

Aidan Horan, who chaired the governance review group, said he would be “seriously concerned” that the organisation would be unable to “rebuild the trust, confidence and faith that wider society wants” if it were to reject the report’s 78 recommendations, which are likely to be voted on as a bloc next month.

Sport Ireland president Kieran Mulvey praised the report as “comprehensive” following its publication, and as “an important milestone in a new era for the FAI”.

He suggested that a positive vote would improve the FAI’s chances of having its funding restored. Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy said “the FAI is moving in the right direction”.

“We wouldn’t agree with every decision they’ve made, but on the whole they’re moving in the right direction,” he said.

Appointments

Asked about the appointment as interim general manager of Noel Mooney, who is seen as having been a strong supporter of Mr Delaney, Mr Treacy said “what we would have liked to have seen was a total break with the past”.

He added that he did not want to comment on any individual specifically. The appointment of Mr Mooney has been criticised by Minister for Sport Shane Ross as a “backwards step”.

Mr Horan said that during the review he discovered that many corporate governance elements he would expect to see in a large organisation were not present in the FAI.

“We were looking for details of risk management arrangements, detailed risk policies and procedures, which would be a norm you would have across all large corporate entities. We were not in a position to see that.”

He said “serious deficiencies” were found at board level.

“People were intent on doing what they considered was right, but it was deficient, clearly. The collective board clearly did not do their work and there were serious deficiencies in that regard,” he added.

Mr Conway said he would be willing to go forward as a member of an interim board, if asked to do so. The entire board has committed to step down and Mr Ross has indicated that he wants an entirely new board appointed.

The corporate governance report said that consideration should be given to allowing up to two members of the board to stay on for a period of a year to assist with the transition.