The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) seem to have a default setting that leaves them in a constant state of unrest. The FAI and making the headlines with controversy seem to go hand in hand. It may be somewhat of a new era for the FAI but divisions between the old guard and the new still exist within their walls. The latest story emerging from FAI headquarters in Abbotstown may cause a bigger rift in the organisation.
The FAI has a senior council that consists of 79 members. One of them senior council members Nixon Moran who is a member of the FAI Schools National Executive has sent a seven-page document to both FIFA and UEFA voicing concerns about the current set up and third-party involvement. Mainly that the governing body of football in Ireland may have lost authority since its bailout deal with the Government in January.
The submission was sent to FIFA and UEFA on Thursday the 28th of May with a copy been sent to current FAI President Gerry McAnaney the following day. That copy was then emailed to all other senior council members on Monday the 1st of June. He also included a cover note that explained he felt bound to act in accordance to the rules of the association that say council members must monitor both the activities of the FAI and the boards governance of the FAI.
Morton raises plenty of issues in the document that we will touch on but had a big focus on the Memorandum of Understanding. This Memorandum of Understanding was signed back in January between the FAI and the Government when they bailed out a seriously troubled FAI staring into the financial abyss with the help of UEFA and the banks. This would see the FAI have access to $35 million over four years and in return they would aim for far reaching changes in their committee. This agreement has since been validated by the current board of the FAI.
Morton said in a summary that the consequences of acceding to some demands in the Memorandum of Understanding are “extraordinary serious” with his document simply outlining very real concerns for the association.
The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding seen some changes to the governance reforms voted on by FAI delegates back in June. These changes include an increase in number of independent directors from four up to six. Probably the most worrying change for Nixon Morton and other members of the old guard is a new clause that anyone who has served over ten years in the FAI must step down which Morton will have served in 2025.
Should that ten-year council limit pass it would see 58 council members from the old guard gone. Current President Gerry McAnaney is one of the names on that ten-year chopping block.
Morton claims that the fact the board consists of a 50:50 split of independent directors and football directors is a concern and could see the FAI come under control from outside parties via the independent directors and put the views of the football directs voted into power to one side.
In the document Morton also raises concerns over current Interim CEO Gary Owens and Interim deputy Niall Quinn because of their previous association with new independent chairperson of the FAI Roy Barrett. He also questions the process of how both Owens and Quinn were appointed and if that process met the highest of standards.
Morton also believes that FIFA, UEFA and other stakeholders should have been given consideration before signing the Memorandum of Understanding. He said on the matter “Changes should not be done as a consequence of the influence of the view of an external party.” He goes on to say that recommendations approved and adopted by members voted into the FAI have been outright ignored by those who designed the Memorandum of Understanding.
Nixon Morton feels that his document reflects concerns that himself and others have for the future of football in Ireland and said there is a “Titanic battle for the heart and soul of football in our country.”
FIFA has said it has received Nixon Morton’s document and would reply to him in due course.
After the most recent virtual board meeting on the evening of Tuesday the 2nd of June they reaffirmed its commitment to the setup of Irish football. Especially now that plenty of domestic clubs are struggling with the impact of Covid-19.
Now you also have the Department of Sport led by outgoing Minister Shane Ross hammering home that the obligation is on the FAI to implement governance reforms by next month for State funding to be reinstated. While both Gary Owens and Niall Quinn have also been additament that the Memorandum of Understanding attached to the Government bailout can’t be renegotiated.
While rule changes are needed at a general meeting (EGM) to change the structure of both the senior council and board at the FAI this meeting hasn’t been able to happen due to Covid-19.
A general meeting (EGM) is planned in conjunction with an annual general meeting (AGM) for July 25th in Galway. Of course, it is very likely this will be scrapped as a mass gathering of delegates in one room would be bad press the FAI just don’t need right now.
Even as recently as today (Wednesday 3rd of June) the Department of Sport themselves have confirmed that there have been no developments on this issue since January. This has made them push out their deadline of July for any enactments to be made within the FAI. Meaning that there is no change to the Memorandum of Understanding.
This means that as of today the FAI have seven weeks to update their rule book or risk losing some vital financial aid for the State. Aid which is even more important now during a time when the FAI are facing a big loss in revenue due to international games being played behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.
The reason the Department of Sport is pushing so hard for a shakeup is from the backlash of the reign of terror by John Delaney. Shane Ross in the past has talked about an overhaul within the FAI being long overdue and that the organisation is in desperate need of new blood. A stance that almost all fans of the domestic game will agree with.