FAI chairman Roy Barrett declared Sunday's egm a "watershed moment" for Irish football as a newly configured general assembly re-elected Gerry McAnaney as president and Paul Cooke as vice-president both on two-year terms.
But perhaps the clearest indication of the association's cultural shift, since the John Delaney era, happened on Saturday night when Barrett wrote to all 141 assembly members to warn them about pressurising individuals to block vote for candidates.
“I have been made aware of allegations that certain affiliates are insisting that each of their delegates vote in a particular way,” Barrett wrote. “The view of the affiliate appears to be that all of the votes are theirs to be directed and not those of the individual delegates, representing the interests of the members who elected them.
“To be fair, given the proximity of the vote, I could have let this go and ignored the matter. However, I am not going to do that. At a personal level, I find this type of behaviour objectionable and completely at odds with what the vast majority of members want our organisation to look like in the future.
“An organisation where individuals feel pressured by others, simply because they want to exercise their franchise in an election in the manner it was intended to be made, will never fulfil its potential.
“This organisation should have zero tolerance of this behaviour and I certainly will not accept it.”
Barrett, the outgoing managing director of Goodbody Stockbrokers, has put the need for a radically improved culture within the association on equal footing with the "corporate reforms" that became evident by the egm ratifying six independent directors, as businessman Gary Twohig and former technical director Packie Bonner were added to the 12-person FAI board.
“I just wanted to remind people the underlying spirit of the process,” Barrett told the media. “Each delegate should be able to freely exercise their vote that was in the best interest of their constituency, and should not feel in any way heavily influenced by any other factors.”
Waterford's Tom Browne, representing the Schoolboys' Football Association of Ireland (SFAI), was also added to the board but two football directors, Dave Moran and Ursula Scully, were pushed aside after both were comprehensively out-voted by McAnaney and Cooke as the FAI adhered to the terms of last year's €30 million Government rescue package.
“Our organisation isn’t perfect but, by God, it isn’t the worst in the world by any manner or means,” said McAnaney, “and it should never be seen as that”.
“Volunteerism is really extremely strong in our game. There’s an awful lot of very, very good people who are committed to this association and they have got a fresh impetus now with the new arrivals into our general assembly who are ready to drive us forward.”
Bonner’s return to the FAI fold, having been made redundant in 2010, despite the then chief executive earning more than the combined salaries of an Taoiseach and the Chief Justice, was welcomed across the board. The 60-year-old, who won 80 caps for Ireland between 1981 and 1996, will have a major influence on improving player pathways.
“Irish football has never been far from my mind over the last 10 years,” said Bonner. “It’s early in the new regime but it’s important to be positive and constructive. There’s a great deal of lost time to be recovered, so as a non-executive independent director, I want to provide whatever guidance and oversight I can in the years ahead.”
However, Barrett was unable to shine any light on the pressing need to get Fifa to relax the post-Brexit blockage on Irish teenagers being able to sign for a UK club before their 18th birthday. Nor was the chairman forthcoming with a timeline for when supporters can return to football matches in the Republic of Ireland.
“We have a new board now and the key objective of that board is to ensure a level of transparency and openness in everything we do.”
FAI board: Gerry McAnaney (president), Paul Cooke (vice-president), Roy Barrett (independent chairperson), Liz Joyce, Catherine Guy, Robert Watt, Packie Bonner, Gary Twohig (all independents), Richard Shakespeare (League of Ireland), John Finnegan (amateur adult rep), Joe O'Brien (minority groups), Tom Browne (SFAI).