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Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland call for 'root and branch' reform of the FAI

Thu, Apr 11 2019

Ireland fans protest during the recent international win over Georgia. Credit: Eddie Lennon (ETPhotos)

The management committee of the Professional Players’ Association of Ireland have called for ‘root and branch’ reform of the FAI following recent revelations over governance issues in the association.

The committee expressed their ‘dismay’ following Tuesday’s Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting attended by leading FAI figures including former CEO John Delaney and President Donal Conway.

Delaney, who stepped down from his position as CEO to take up a newly-created role of ‘executive vice-president last month, refused to entertain any questions on his 14 years as chief executive.

The harshly-worded statement contended that ‘for years, League of Ireland football has been the poor relation, lagging behind grass roots and the men's international team in terms of importance.’

The committee, which comprises current and former players from the League of Ireland and Women’s National League, said ‘the governance of the association needs to be overhauled.’

Dundalk goalkeeper and PFAI chairman Gary Rogers was stinging in his criticism, noting that ‘yesterday's performance by the FAI was a new low point for Irish football.’

He added: “In a country where soccer remains the most popular sport, the lack of priority given to our own league is embarrassing.

“The FAI has no interest in the views or fates of the players, this is borne out by the fact that there has never been any player representation on any FAI committee or board.

“Also, last year during protracted difficulties at Bray Wanderers and Limerick, the FAI refused to get into any meaningful dialogue with our representatives and even had the audacity to look for €150,000 to put into a fund to pay for our own wages.”

The FAI were summoned before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Transport and Sport following revelations over the governance of the association.

It was revealed in March, by the Sunday Times, that Delaney had given the association a €100,000 loan in April 2017, which was subsequently paid back in June.

The association were obliged to report any such instance to Sport Ireland, the statutory governing body for sport in Ireland.

On Monday, Sport Ireland announced it would suspend funding to the FAI while they investigate the circumstances surrounding the breach.

Delaney cited legal advice, and in particular the Kerins Case, handed down in favour of former Rehab CEO Angela Kerins following her appearance before the Public Accounts Committee in 2014.

The court ruled that the judicial system has a right to take action on cases involving Oireachtas committees and has resulted in more conservative lines of questioning.

PFAI Management Committee statement:

We have watched the events of the last few weeks with dismay culminating with the appearance by FAI representatives at the Oireachtas yesterday. While many of the public were shocked by the inability of those attendees from the FAI and in particular the blatant stonewalling by the former CEO, unfortunately for us as players and for our representatives this is the standard response that we have become accustomed to over the last few years.

Whilst the behaviour and attitude of yesterday’s delegation did not shock us, we were however very interested to hear the admission from the Board members that were in attendance yesterday, that they were not always made aware of relevant information that require their attention and approval. Following this revelation from the FAI, we will now be seeking confirmation from each member of the Board individually to validate if they did indeed approve and have full knowledge of the highly publicised issues the PFA Ireland have faced with the FAI to date.

For years, League of Ireland football has been the poor relation, lagging behind grass roots and the men's international team in terms of importance. The 14 year reign of John Delaney has seen priority given to all other areas. It is clear that the finances of the FAI need to be forensically examined and the governance of the association completely overhauled. Deputy Ruth Coppinger said yesterday that the hearing was "like Hamlet without the Prince". To continue the analogy, something is rotten in the state of the FAI.

PFA Ireland Chairman Gary Rogers said,

"Yesterday's performance by the FAI was a new low point for Irish football. In a country where soccer remains the most popular sport, the lack of priority given to our own league is embarrassing. The FAI has no interest in the views or fates of the players, this is borne out by the fact that there has never been any player representation on any FAI committee or board. Also, last year during protracted difficulties at Bray Wanderers and Limerick, the FAI refused to get into any meaningful dialogue with our representatives and even had the audacity to look for €150,000 to put into a fund to pay for our own wages.

The prize money available for winning the League is disgraceful; it has halved since 2007 and is disproportionate to what clubs pay for affiliation fees. There needs to be root and branch reform within the FAI. We note from yesterday's Oireachtas meeting that the FAI appear to be willing to change the governance of the association going forward. We hope that their attitude towards change also includes the players in the League and the League in general. We have recently written to the FAI Board of Management seeking a meeting in relation to starting negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement for the players. We feel this is long overdue and necessary and will ultimately benefit the players in the league and we hope that the FAI will be willing and able to implement same.

We need to start again, from now at year zero, and make professional football in this country and us, the players the centrepiece of the rebirth."

PFA Ireland Management Committee – Gary Rogers, Áine O’Gorman, Paul Skinner, Dean Clarke, Oscar Brennan, Brendan Clarke, Paul O’Conor, Luke Byrne, Shane Supple.