FAI chaos as Aviva sell-off is pro­posed

Irish Independent - - Front Page - Daniel McDon­nell

THE cri­sis-rid­den FAI has been urged to con­sider sell­ing its stake in the Aviva Sta­dium in or­der to ease its cash cri­sis.

Ex­perts from Uefa brought in to look at the trou­bled foot­ball body’s fi­nances be­lieve the FAI could look at a deal with the IRFU that would give rugby au­thor­i­ties full own­er­ship of the venue.

FAI of­fi­cials are aware of the sug­ges­tion but are thought to be cool on the idea.

Uefa has come to the FAI’s aid in a year of cri­sis by pro­vid­ing up to €15m in ur­gent fi­nan­cial sup­port.

The be­lea­guered FAI suf­fered an­other set­back yes­ter­day when ex­pe­ri­enced ad­min­is­tra­tor John Fo­ley made the last-minute de­ci­sion to turn down the post of in­terim CEO, thus leav­ing the po­si­tion va­cant.

Min­is­ters Shane Ross and Bren­dan Grif­fin have called on Ab­bot­stown chiefs to pri­ori­tise the ap­point­ment of four in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tors to the FAI board be­fore ap­point­ing a new per­ma­nent CEO with no pre­vi­ous links to the body.

THE FAI’s at­tempts to move on from the John De­laney era have met with an­other set­back af­ter in­terim CEO in wait­ing John Fo­ley turned down the post at the last minute.

The former Water­ford Crys­tal CEO had been lined up to take over from Noel Mooney af­ter the Uefa em­ployee’s six­month term ended.

The FAI needs an­other stop­gap so­lu­tion un­til it is in a po­si­tion to ap­point a per­ma­nent chief ex­ec­u­tive and Mr Fo­ley’s ap­point­ment had been rat­i­fied by the board.

He was viewed as a good fit be­cause of his ex­pe­ri­ence at the helm of Ath­let­ics Ire­land and Cycling Ire­land and, more per­ti­nently, the feel­ing that he would have strong re­la­tions with the Gov­ern­ment and Sport Ire­land.

The FAI is un­der pres­sure in this depart­ment due to the on­go­ing sus­pen­sion of State fund­ing. Mr Fo­ley had met staff in Ab­bot­stown and was ex­pected to start work yes­ter­day.

But he in­formed FAI of­fi­cials late on Sun­day that he would not be tak­ing up the role, and ex­plained his rea­sons to RTÉ.

“I had a num­ber of meet­ings and dis­cus­sions with FAI rep­re­sen­ta­tives over the past num­ber of weeks and was happy to help the or­gan­i­sa­tion face the chal­lenges ahead,” he said.

“I also know that the FAI has a wide range of key stake­hold­ers who con­trib­ute to the run­ning of the game and the fi­nan­cial well-be­ing of the as­so­ci­a­tion and that the full sup­port of these stake­hold­ers is vi­tal.

“Ul­ti­mately, it was not clear that the sup­port for my ap­point­ment across key stake­hold­ers was at the level re­quired for me to suc­ceed on de­liv­er­ing on the huge chal­lenges to be faced by the as­so­ci­a­tion in the com­ing months.”

The news is a blow for the FAI as it tries to re­cover from the set­back of the Sport Ire­land-com­mis­sioned KOSI au­dit be­ing re­ferred to gar­daí.

It was hop­ing that the pub­li­ca­tion of the KOSI report would be fol­lowed by the ap­point­ment of four in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tors to fill the va­can­cies on its board.

A state­ment from the Depart­ment of Sport last night said min­is­ters Shane Ross and Bren­dan Grif­fin be­lieved the ap­point­ment of the four di­rec­tors should be an “ur­gent pri­or­ity” so a long-term CEO could be sourced.

The Gov­ern­ment mis­sive added the “new CEO should be com­pletely in­de­pen­dent of any present or pre­vi­ous in­volve­ment with the FAI” and in­di­cated that the restora­tion of Gov­ern­ment fund­ing is tied in with that re­quest.

It’s un­der­stood an in­de­pen­dent chair­per­son has been iden­ti­fied but the un­cer­tainty around KOSI has re­sulted in a hold-up to the process.

The FAI’s pref­er­ence for Mr Fo­ley had raised eye­brows in cer­tain quar­ters be­cause of his links with the as­so­ci­a­tion.

Mr Fo­ley was a long-term mem­ber of the Na­tional League Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee – the gov­ern­ing body of the Airtricity League – along­side Mr De­laney af­ter join­ing as an in­de­pen­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive in 2007.

FAI vice-pres­i­dent Paul Cooke, a char­tered ac­coun­tant and former news­pa­per chief, had been floated as an op­tion for the in­terim CEO post.

There had been fresh spec­u­la­tion around the po­si­tion of pres­i­dent Donal Con­way who has re­sisted calls to stand down, most no­tably from Sports Min­is­ter Mr Ross.

FAI sources said Mr Con­way had been con­tem­plat­ing step­ping away, but he would be needed in the im­me­di­ate term as the as­so­ci­a­tion faces an­other lead­er­ship void with staff wor­ried about the fu­ture.

Siptu staff at the FAI have called for a meet­ing with Mr Ross. Siptu rep­re­sen­ta­tive Denis Hynes said: “Morale among staff in the FAI is at an all-time low.”

Re­fusal: John Fo­ley

PHOTO: CODY GLENN/ SPORTSFILE

Changed his mind: John Fo­ley said sup­port for his ap­point­ment was not at the level he re­quired.

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