FAI mired in fresh crisis as new CEO pulls out at the last minute

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 six-month 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.

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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.”

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