FAI reform group wants board appointments shake-up

One suggestion is to split the troubled association into two separate organisations

Minister for Sport Shane Ross said the FAI was ‘a complete and utter basketcase’.  Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times.

Minister for Sport Shane Ross said the FAI was ‘a complete and utter basketcase’. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times.

 

A group of FAI employees, politicians and independent football figures are working on a plan to redraw how the FAI board is appointed.

The group, which has met with long-time FAI critics Niall Quinn and Brian Kerr, envisages enforcing significant changes to how the board of the association is selected, and also splitting the FAI into two organisations.

Currently, the board is selected by the council of the FAI, which is drawn from the smaller leagues and provincial associations.

Sources close to the plan said the changes envisaged by the group would entail directors being appointed after an independent process. During this process, there would be a close examination of their qualifications.

Details of the plan to split the organisation in two first emerged in this morning’s Irish Independent. It is understood that the plan to split grassroots and professional football originated in the FAI among a group of employees, and is loosely based on a similar structure in Welsh football.

Elements of the plan have been in circulation in football circles, but it evolved during and after a meeting organised by Labour Party senator Aodhan O’ Riordan and party leader Brendan Howlin in Leinster House this week.

The group is hoping to meet with senior politicians and civil servants as it moves the plan forward.

Extremely complicated

However, sources in the football community said the success of the group’s proposals is far from assured. The proposals, in whole or in part, would be extremely complicated given how Irish football is run. If the association was to devolve responsibility for the grassroots game to a new organisation, that would likely need endorsement by the smaller clubs and leagues themselves. Such a project could prove logistically challenging, and any major reform to the council system may also face opposition from elements within the grassroots, some of whom feel it gives them a voice in governance at the national level.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Minister for Sport Shane Ross said he was open to talk to anybody with “constructive suggestions about the FAI, because the FAI is a complete and utter basketcase, it’s in a very, very dark place at the moment.”

“If we’ve got people like Brian Kerr and Niall Quinn who are going to make suggestions, I would be very happy to talk to them about it.”

He said the government’s interest is in protecting funding - the €2.9 million in Sport Ireland funding which is given to the game every year. The government is devising a mechanism to channel the money into the grassroots without it going through the FAI, which Mr Ross said he hoped would be ready by next week.

“The Government can’t believe the association which runs Irish football has sunk to such an awful low,” Mr Ross said.

“What we cannot believe - and I cannot understand, and I think is quite unforgivable - is that the independent directors who were promised to us for so long have still not been appointed by the FAI.

“We’ve got to see an organisation which is independent of what’s happened in the past - that’s terribly important.”