The FAI is ex­pected to lay bare its fi­nan­cial plight on Thurs­day when its ac­counts for 2018 are pub­lished at a press con­fer­ence:

Frus­tra­tion grow­ing over po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in how FAI does its busi­ness

The Irish Times - - Front Page - Soc­cer Correspond­ent Em­met Malone

The FAI is ex­pected to lay bare the ex­tent of its fi­nan­cial plight on Thurs­day when its ac­counts for 2018 are pub­lished at a press con­fer­ence in Dublin.

There is a good deal of frus­tra­tion within the or­gan­i­sa­tion over what is seen as the po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence that led to the an­nounce­ment yes­ter­day morn­ing that John Fo­ley would not be tak­ing up the po­si­tion of in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive.

Fo­ley’s in­volve­ment had been seen as key to the as­so­ci­a­tion’s hopes of mak­ing progress on sev­eral fronts, most ob­vi­ously the po­lit­i­cal one. There was some sur­prise when it emerged that he had opted to pass on the six-month con­tract af­ter dis­cus­sions dur­ing the pre­vi­ous few days that had also in­volved both Sport Ire­land and the Min­is­ter for Sport Shane Ross.

The board of the FAI met for more than five hours yes­ter­day and dis­cussed both is­sues, with the clear­est de­ci­sion to emerge im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards the one to pub­lish the ac­counts in time to al­low the or­gan­i­sa­tion to re­con­vene its agm be­fore the end of the year, which it will now do.

There is a feel­ing within the board, how­ever, that just a mat­ter of days af­ter Sport Ire­land re­ferred the Kosi report to An Garda Síochána, some­thing that is seen as hav­ing de­layed the ap­point­ment of the much an­tic­i­pated in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tors, Ross has now dealt the or­gan­i­sa­tion an­other blow by ef­fec­tively block­ing Fo­ley’s in­volve­ment.

The last minute na­ture of that did seem re­mark­able. Fo­ley’s im­mi­nent ar­rival out at Ab­bot­stown had been known about for weeks and he had al­ready spent sev­eral days around the as­so­ci­a­tion’s of­fices fa­mil­iaris­ing him­self with the task ahead, one that was ex­pected to in­clude tak­ing the first steps to­wards im­ple­ment­ing a new fi­nan­cial plan.

Hav­ing pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied the con­tin­ued in­volve­ment of Donal Con­way and fel­low board mem­ber John Ear­ley as bar­ri­ers to the restora­tion of pub­lic fund­ing, though, Ross clearly took ex­cep­tion to the de­ci­sion that Noel Mooney, who it is said will not be re­turn­ing af­ter hav­ing re­turned to work at Uefa yes­ter­day, was to be re­placed by an­other per­son with a long his­tory of in­volve­ment with the as­so­ci­a­tion.

In Fo­ley’s case it was as a mem­ber of the Na­tional League Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee, es­sen­tially the board of the League Ire­land, one that was widely seen as un­demo­cratic by the clubs who felt its struc­tures and lack of ac­count­abil­ity, de­prived them of any say in their own fu­tures. Fo­ley had been ap­pointed as an “in­de­pen­dent” mem­ber back in 2007 and while he was widely seen as ca­pa­ble, even by some crit­ics of his ap­point­ment, Ross found the pre­vi­ous link un­ac­cept­able.

That much was ef­fec­tively con­firmed in a state­ment is­sued jointly with Min­is­ter of State for Sport Bren­dan Grif­fin late yes­ter­day.

While point­edly ac­knowl­edg­ing Fo­ley’s “long ser­vice to Ir­ish sport,” and “rep­u­ta­tion for de­liv­ery” the state­ment made clear Ross’s po­si­tion that “the most ur­gent pri­or­ity for the FAI should be the ap­point­ment of the four in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tors. There­after, it is im­por­tant that the Board, un­der the lead­er­ship of the in­de­pen­dent Chair­per­son, moves quickly to fill the CEO va­cancy.

‘Nor­mal­ity’

“To sat­isfy the con­cerns of all stake­hold­ers,” it con­tin­ued, “the new CEO should be com­pletely in­de­pen­dent of any present or pre­vi­ous in­volve­ment with the FAI. The FAI’s re­form agenda needs to be strongly led in a man­ner that al­lows nor­mal­ity to re­turn to foot­ball in Ire­land as quickly as pos­si­ble. The restora­tion of gov­ern­ment fund­ing can only fol­low such re­form.”

It prompted some anger out in Ab­bot­stown where it was claimed that the as­so­ci­a­tion’s best ef­forts to make progress on pretty much all of the fronts men­tioned were be­ing frus­trated by events out­side of the as­so­ci­a­tion’s con­trol.

There was also some ex­as­per­a­tion over the sug­ges­tion by Fer­gus O’Dowd, chair­man of the Joint Oireach­tas Com­mit­tee on Trans­port, Tourism and Sport, that the as­so­ci­a­tion should put the names of the pro­posed in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tors into the pub­lic do­main.

The claim from within the or­gan­i­sa­tion is that while these peo­ple have clearly been iden­ti­fied by the con­sul­tants at Am­rop, hired to re­cruit them, their names have not ac­tu­ally been made known to the as­so­ci­a­tion it­self.

Opin­ions are di­vided, mean­while, on the core is­sue of Ross’s stand with re­gard to the likes of Con­way and Ear­ley hav­ing been in­volved with the old board and closely associated with John De­laney’s time in charge.

There is, on the one hand, a group of peo­ple in­volved at a high level who be­lieve that both should depart well be­fore the term of the cur­rent board is up next sum­mer. But there are also a gen­eral re­sent­ment at the Min­is­ter’s on­go­ing at­tempt to tell the or­gan­i­sa­tion how it should do its busi­ness.

■ John Fo­ley: will not be tak­ing up the po­si­tion of in­terim FAI chief ex­ec­u­tive

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