Head of SFAI resigns over recommendations for FAI reform

John Earley steps down a month before FAI AGM over lack of schoolboy representation

John Earley, head of the Schoolboys Football Association of Ireland (SFAI), has stood down. Photograph: Inpho

John Earley, head of the Schoolboys Football Association of Ireland (SFAI), has stood down. Photograph: Inpho

 

Moves for a plethora of governance reforms to be ratified at next month’s FAI AGM have suffered a set-back after the chairman of the association’s largest affiliate resigned from the board in protest at the recommendations.

John Earley, head of the Schoolboys Football Association of Ireland (SFAI),on Wednesday brought an end to his four years at the top table just two days before the reforms are due to be published. He also quit his post as chairman of the FAI’s underage committee.

The overhaul, ordered by Sport Ireland as a minimum requirement for government funding to be reinstated, will see a new 12-person board containing just two survivors of the current regime.

It is understood Earley refused to approve the reforms when they were first presented to the board last Thursday due to the lack of schoolboy football representation within the new structure. The current 58-person FAI council has just four seats allocated to the SFAI.

“With up to 120,000 young players under the umbrella of the SFAI, my role as chairman is, and has always been, to try and provide them with the best environment to play the game we all love,” said Earley.

“However, a combination of recent events during the ongoing governance review, and the failure to address my concerns at board level, has left me with no other option but to resign.”

Earley, the 63-year-old Tipperary native, issued his resignation to FAI President Donal Conway on Tuesday just before he chaired a meeting of his SFAI executive.

There, he received the full backing of his fellow delegates which could have ramifications for the success or otherwise of the reform agenda.

All 32 leagues are entitled to a vote at the FAI AGM in in Trim on July 27th. A two-thirds majority, 117 of 175 potential voters, will be needed to ratify any rule changes.

The annual general meeting of the SFAI, due to be held on Saturday week in Wicklow, could decide to block vote against the proposals.

The five-person governance review group has a majority representation of Sport Ireland nominees.

Among their recommendations for the new board is at least four females and the same number of independent members.

The posts of treasurer and secretary, at present vacant, are to be abolished.

Noel Mooney, the caretaker general manager of the FAI, said earlier this week that a new board would drive the changes necessary to modernise an organisation currently operating for the first time in 15 years without John Delaney at the helm.

The veteran chief executive is currently on gardening leave, not expected to return. Mooney has moved into Delaney’s office and his predecessor’s range of memorabilia has been removed from the walls.

It is believed Earley’s discontent with the direction of the FAI predates the departure of Delaney. He offered to resign at a board meeting on April 15th, the day Delaney was sent on gardening leave.

Earley was elevated to the board in May 2015 following the sad passing of his SFAI colleague Tim Fitzgerald.

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