Uefa to offer financial support to FAI during overhaul
European federation to make millions available as FAI reform governance structure
FAI president Donal Conway (L) has said Uefa will offer funding to the FAI as they undergo a reform of their governance structure. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
FAI president Donal Conway has said that Uefa will effectively guarantee the financial operations of the Irish association while it is reforming its governance structure over the coming months.
Conway told members of the FAI’s Council, which met for the first time in almost six months at Abbotstown on Wednesday, that the European federation had offered whatever support the FAI feels might be required when the two organisations met last week. That has been taken to cover the areas of logistics, personnel and financial backing. Fifa are also understood to have said they will be supportive.
The FAI President later reiterated the claim in the face of a call by Siptu for a meeting with Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross, with the union claiming that it had received information to suggest the association’s financial position is so “precarious” that the jobs of the 200 or so people who work for it are “at risk”.
“As I outlined to our Council meeting today,” said Conway in a statement issued in response, “we recently met with Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin and Director of National Associations Zoran Lakovic. At that meeting in Nyon, they assured us of the full support of Uefa for the FAI as we go through our current processes. Uefa’s support will ensure the continued viability of the Football Association of Ireland and there is no threat to FAI Operations or to FAI staff.”
The belief appears to be that Uefa could make funds running into millions available if it is needed between now and the end of the year, while there are rumours that two Irish members of its staff, Noel Mooney and Liam McGroarty, might be given a role - something that might divide opinions.
In a more immediate effort to help the association get through the ongoing process of reforming itself, Paul Cooke has already been coopted onto the board subcommittee established to deal will all of the investigations and related procedures currently under way.
The chartered accountant, who has worked for many years on the business side of the media and previously represented Waterford United on Council, joins Conway as well as other board members Paraic Treanor, Niamh O’Donoghue, Eamonn Naughton and Noel Fitzroy as a member of the group and will bring, amongst other things, some financial expertise to its work.
Asked if he was wary of getting involved now, when members of a board he had previously been critical of were still in charge, he said no. “I think that once you put your hand up with an offer of help then you answer the call when it comes. It’s very early days, though. I was in for a few hours yesterday and now today but it will take a while to get more of a sense of the current situation and how the process might unfold.”
A proposal by Gerry McAnaney, one of two candidates for the vacant position of Honorary Secretary, to bring in other outsiders to help in specific areas seems to have been received well enough but there was no firm indication that it would be acted upon in the immediate future.
“It was just about providing as much support as possible to the people in there at a time when everybody seems to be either new or acting up,” he said about the proposal.
The characterisation by the two men of the meeting as positive and constructive was shared by others despite some dissent from the likes of John Delaney supporter John O’Regan of the Munster Senior League and Limerick chairman Pat O’Sullivan, and McAnaney said it had been the best of its kind that he had attended in years. “People had their say but there was recognition that there is a lot of work to be done.”
How quickly that work can be reasonably expected to be completed remains a matter for debate, with several council members questioning the proposed timeframe and asking how they could be expected to make submissions on particular aspects of the process when they have no idea about the direction in which the work going on behind the scenes is driving the association. Conway and Governance Review Committee chair Aidan Horan stood by the projection that it can make its recommendations by late June, however, something that would suggest the possibility of an EGM early the following month.