FAI review calls for wide-ranging reforms to its board
Expert group set up in wake of controversy over departure of former ceo John Delaney
The adoption of a report on corporate governance in the FAI could potentially be a “new era” for the organisation and improve the chances of state funding being restored, Sport Ireland president Kieran Mulvey has said.
Mr Mulvey said that the report, which was produced by a panel appointed by Sport Ireland and the FAI, was “comprehensive” and “gives a roadmap and a pathway to the future” for Irish football’s governing body.
“It’s a potential for a new era if the soccer family and the instiutions adop[t this report. We see this as an important milestone in a new era for the FAI,” he said.
The report’s 77 recommendations must now be voted on by delegates at the FAI’s AGM on July 27th.
“If there’s a positive vote, and I’m obviously hoping that will be the case, the board then will meet and we might be in a better positoin to review, at that stage, having this report adopted, that we would be securing the development funds for the rest of the year for the FAI,” Mr Mulvey said.
The report recommends reforms to the Football Association of Ireland board and wider corporate governance structure. It was conducted by a five-person team, two of whom were nominated by the FAI board and three by Sport Ireland, including chairman Aidan Horan.
The roles of FAI president and chairperson of the board of directors, which have previously been held by the same person, should be separated, with an independent chairperson proving leadership, setting strategy and representing the association externally, according to the report.
Several of the reforms are aimed at strengthening the power and decision making capacity of the board, which will weaken the power held by executives in the FAI.
The role of the president and vice-president are currently “presented in an extremely vague manner in the FAI rules,” the report found.
This should be reformed, with the president and vice-president “ensuring that the collective decision making of the board is supported and safeguarded”.
A new Football Management Committee, chaired by the president, should be established, and the wider board committee structure should be shaken up, the report found.
The FAI refused to field any questions about its former chief executive John Delaney, despite sustained questioning during the press conference. They would not clarify if this decision was taken following legal advice.
A new nominations committee will be appointed.
There is criticism of the current board structure, with its composition “determined almost exclusively on significant experience in football administration” The presence of competencies in finance and other key areas is “largely by coincidence rather than design.
“The capacity to effectively manage an organisation such as the association and to oversee the governance and accountability framework required for such a task demands an array of skills and experience which is significantly broader than those traditionally required for FAI board membership”.
The roles of honorary secretary and honorary treasurer would be abolished.
The new board should include four independent directors, including the chairperson, the report found.
It also has recommended expanding the size of the FAI council, the body which elects the board, to include new or extra representatives from the schoolboy/schoolgirl game, and the professional clubs.
There are also recommendations to increase the participation of female representatives on the board, and throughout the corporate structure of the FAI.
The board should consist of a minimum of one third “of both genders within 12 months” and this would become mandatory within 24 months. The chief executive should not be a member of the board, it recommended.
During their work on the report, the expert group found said it has “unfortunately seen evidence of a breakdown in trust, confidence and faith in the Association”.
Launching the report on Friday, FAI president Donal Conway said it was the only option on offer and there “is no plan B”.
He said he would “challenge members to think differently. I want this to be not just governance on paper, I want this to be governance in practice”.
Mr Horan, who chaired the governance review, said that one of the biggest changes was a Football Management Committee, which would focus on the “business of football” rather than the commercial aspects, which would be the focus of the main board.
He said that he was happy with the “full cooperation” of the FAI which he received while writing the report, and expressed the hope that its adoption would go someone way to restoring trust and confidence in the organisation.
The report also calls for a shake up of the committee structure of the FAI, and the introduction of a remuneration committee which would oversee the chief executive and other employee’s salaries.
The report recommends that one or two incumbents should be allowed to remain on the board during an interim period, despite a commitment earlier this year that the entire board should step down.
Mr Horan said that this was to ensure there was consistency during a period of upheaval at the organisation. Mr Conway said he would consider putting his name forward if his fellow board members felt he would be a good fit to remain on the board in an interim capacity.