Shane Ross believes FAI’s decision to bring in Noel Mooney ‘a backward step’
Minister for Sport calls for independent chief executive without links to the FAI board
Minister for Sport Shane Ross has questioned the decision of the FAI to bring in Noel Mooney to head up the organisation. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times
The FAI has declined to comment following a request for a reaction to a damning assessment by Minister for Sport Shane Ross to the decision to bring Noel Mooney in to head up the organisation for the next six months.
In an article for the Sunday Independent, Ross is scathing regarding the decision, describing it as “a backward step” and confirming that it was made despite the opposition of both the government and Sport Ireland.
He writes that the move was a “cynical” attempt to bring back an insider with whom the current board will feel comfortable and suggests that it is part of a general attempt at “brazen backsliding” on the commitment initially conveyed a couple of months back that they would step aside as a group in July so as to make way for new leaders at the embattled association.
“The FAI needs an independent chief executive, a troubleshooter without links to the FAI board, selected in an open, transparent process,” says Ross.
“Mooney may have many talents,” he continues, “but he is one of the last people on God’s earth suitable for this job. There is no going back for the FAI. Going to Noel Mooney is going back to the dark ages.”
Amazement and dismay
The hard line taken by the Minister may come as something of a blow to would-be FAI reformer Niall Quinn, who is believed to have been supportive of Mooney’s appointment.
It has largely been met with a mix of amazement and dismay by others around the game, however, most obviously because of his closeness to former John Delaney and clearly expressed support for the way the organisation was being run under the then chief executive.
The FAI has sought to sell, or “spin”, as Ross describes it, Mooney’s appointment as part of a positive package of measures by Uefa aimed at supporting it in a time of crisis, with the federation having said it will make substantial funding available so as to guarantee the ongoing operations of the association.
The view that the secondment of Mooney for an initial six months is a “cynical” move is widely held, though, and there remain many who continue to believe that he may have had a hand in bringing the FAI and Jonathan Hall together, with the pair having apparently crossed paths more than once in the past.
A couple of hundred “stakeholders” in Irish football are expected to gather at the Mansion House on Friday for the “forum” organised by Ross, who continues to talk about having more sectoral representation at board level while acknowledging, at least, the need to also install a more professional leadership.
“We knew soccer needed to give the voiceless volunteers, the loyal supporters, the League of Ireland, the staff, the women soccer players and the FAI itself an opportunity to influence reform of Irish football,” he says.
“I want to see these, the real heroes of Irish soccer, with seats on the FAI board along with others with necessary skills.”