FAI members vote to accept changes that will pave way for €35m in state funding

FAI members have voted to accept changes to the Association’s rules and governance structures that will pave the way for the cash-strapped body to receive around €35m in state funding.

he necessary two thirds majority was comfortably secured at this evening’s EGM which was held virtually on account of the Covid-19 crisis.

Ultimately, the main business was a vote that approves rule changes arising from the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that accompanied January’s urgent rescue deal that kept the FAI afloat.

114 out of 123 present at the virtual gathering endorsed adopting the MoU with eight voting against and one abstaining.
Subsequently, 116 members voted in favour of passing specific rule changes.

Despite acrimony around how that deal was signed, with public disputes around the authority of FAI chair Roy Barrett to agree clauses with government, UEFA and Bank of Ireland, members have heeded warnings that rejecting the necessary changes would risk financial disaster.

Before the vote, Barrett had faced questions about a discussion with Bank of Ireland chief Patrick Kennedy prior to the wheels being set in motion for the Goodbodys managing director to take the FAI position.

Wexford MEP Mick Wallace has been strongly critical of the FAI hierarchy and feels a debt writedown should have been part of any arrangement with Bank of Ireland.

Cash tied up in the decision include increased state support going forward, with the contribution raising from €2.9m to €5.8m per annum, help with the Association’s Aviva Stadium commitments and also football’s portion of emergency Covid-19 relief.

The FAI did manage to secure tweaks to the terms over the last week after talks with Ministers Catherine Martin and Jack Chambers, most notably the demand that FAI Council members who have served for ten years should step away immediately.

That exit date has been pushed back until 2022 in tandem with what is effectively an abolition of Council and the establishment of a new General Assembly with an electoral code that will test the suitability of candidates.

However, another angle of attack was the perception that amendments to the board structure represented a loss of independence.

The ratified changes mean that a further two independent directors will be added to the board to bring the tally up to six with two football elected seats taken away to ensure a 50 percent split.

Both League of Ireland football and the amateur game will lose one of their two seats around the top table.

However, plans are in place for the casting vote to be handed over from chairman Roy Barrett to the President Gerry McAnaney as an attempt to assuage fears.

Barrett, interim CEO Gary Owens and his deputy Niall Quinn had asserted that receiving the green light was necessary to trigger any of their plans.

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