FAI president seeking re-election is mind boggling, says Shane Ross

Strongly worded column says Donal Conway must quit for State funding to be restored

 Minister for  Sport Shane Ross said that “if corporate kings or queens retain positions of power for too long, they can develop bad habits”. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Sport Shane Ross said that “if corporate kings or queens retain positions of power for too long, they can develop bad habits”. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

FAI president Donal Conway’s decision to seek re-election to the post is “mind-boggling”, Minister for Sport Shane Ross has said.

Mr Ross accused Mr Conway of being part of “woeful” corporate governance by spending 14 years on the FAI board while also seeking to remain on it.

In his strongest comments to date, Mr Ross said while Mr Conway “may have done a decent job in recent weeks” he had failed to see that he was part of the problem of the FAI and not the solution.

Currently the Government, through its funding body the Irish Sports Council, has withdrawn all its funding from the FAI. The association has received almost €50 million from the State in the last 10 years.

The Government, Mr Ross revealed, was “aghast” at corporate governance breaches within the association and the FAI “has gone walkabout”.

He accused Mr Conway of reneging on a pledge that he made when he wrote to the Minister on April 16th saying that he and rest of the board would stand down at the annual general meeting (AGM) of the FAI.

The AGM is due to take place in Trim next week and Mr Conway is unopposed for the role. Mr Conway said he changed his mind about stepping down after a corporate governance review recommended that up to two officers of the board should stay on for a further 12 months to help with the transition to a new board set-up.

‘Bad habits’

Mr Ross, in a column in the Sunday Independent, responded: “Last week he put this name forward for re-election as president of the FAI. I responded by asking him to withdraw his nomination and honour his promise. Apparently the FAI regard my demand that he keep his word as an interference! Pretty odd, as he himself publicly introduced the subject in his letter.”

Mr Ross warned the FAI that the Government cannot offer financial support to the association while it continues to breach acceptable governance norms.

He said: “The reason is obvious. If corporate kings or queens retain positions of power for too long, they can develop bad habits.

“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.”

He also accused Mr Conway of exhibiting an “instinctive hostility to reform” by appointing a former FAI employee, Noel Mooney, as the interim head of the organisation.

He further criticised the imposition of a board quorum of just two people into the FAI’s new articles of association.

“Even the corporate governance review did not recommend such a bizarre minimum number for board meetings to be quorate.

“Paradoxically the rule books nominates six. Rule books are easier to change than constitutions.”

Mr Ross welcomed the decision by FAI delegates to overwhelmingly pass changes recommended by the Sport Ireland/FAI governance review group to improve corporate governance at the association.

He said Mr Conway could have that as his legacy at the FAI if he did not put his name forward for election next week.