FAI accepts explanation for video shown to players at Wembley
The board accepts explanations provided and considers that the matter is now closed
Stephen Kenny showed his players a video containing historical references ahead of their friendly match against England. Photograph: Inpho
A few frantic days of probing by interim chief executive Gary Owens led the Football Association of Ireland board to conclude no action was justified against manager Stephen Kenny for his Wembley team-talk.
Owens worked over the weekend to speak with a raft of Kenny’s staff and senior players after acting on a complaint lodged by a member of the backroom team.
The complainant, who has not been identified, said he felt uncomfortable at Kenny’s protracted speech to the group on the day of the friendly, which touched on the history of disrespectful attitudes by the English towards the Irish.
The Ireland manager insisted his pre-planned presentation, which included a short video montage of sporting and historical references, was not “anti-English”.
That view wasn’t shared by the publication that broke the story on Thursday, the English edition of the Daily Mail. The following day, they went so far as to suggest that the manager, who only started in the role seven months ago, was in danger of losing his job.
Such an extreme scenario was never a runner, although the FAI’s assertion in a statement that they intended to “look into this matter internally as a matter of urgency to establish the facts” was the last thing the 49-year-old needed after a run of eight winless games, the last seven without scoring.
Owens, in conjunction with London-based new chief executive Jonathan Hill, devised a schedule of interviews with relevant parties.
The squad were in camp for a total of 10 days, following the 3-0 defeat at Wembley up with the conclusion of the Nations League campaign, a defeat in Wales and disappointing stalemate against Bulgaria last Wednesday.
It is understood none of the players spoken to, including captain Séamus Coleman and his deputy Shane Duffy, expressed any grievance about the nature of the team-talk. Owens also detected no issues from Kenny’s assistants Keith Andrews and Damien Duff.
Alan Kelly was known to have been unhappy with the thrust of Kenny’s dressing-room video before it was even played. Ireland’s goalkeeping coach took the unprecedented step on Saturday night to go public and deny he leaked the story to the English media, emphasising he skipped the final leg of last week’s itinerary due to health concerns.
Owens’s final report concluded no disciplinary action was warranted, a stance the board endorsed on Sunday night following some discussion.
“The FAI decided it was appropriate to look into the matter,” read a statement issued last night. “Since then the FAI has had discussions with a number of staff members and players, including the team manager, Stephen Kenny . . . the board has accepted the explanations provided and considers that the matter is now closed.”
Next up for Kenny is the World Cup draw on December 7th, an event capable of generating an arduous schedule of fixtures from next March to November.
The slump, which started towards the end of his predecessor Mick McCarthy’s reign, demoted Ireland to the third pot of seeds.