Supporters express serious concerns over governance reform process in FAI

Independent Supporters Mandate

To all members,

We hope this mail finds you and all your families safe and well as we pass through yet another international window that saw us unable to give our support to the team in Belgrade or Dublin.

While hopefully there are better times ahead, both in terms or getting back into grounds and results, our work in relation to the governance reform process within the FAI has continued throughout lockdown.

The latest stage of this saw an EGM held online yesterday during which a number of changes were voted through, the main one being the approval of the new FAI Constitution, giving rise to the disbandment of the FAI Council and AGM groups which have been replaced by a new General Assembly.

Although YBIG Mandate believe there are positive changes involved, such as the tightening up of the constitution itself and the rule detailed in the Memorandum of Understanding that sets a ten-year term-limit (including time served) as the maximum anyone can sit on the new body, and, along with our colleagues in the Irish Football Supporters Partnership (CRISC and Irish Supporters Network), agreed to support the motion, all three groups have serious concerns over the manner in which the process was handled.

To provide some context, following the Governance Review Group report in 2019, supporters were awarded two seats on FAI Council and two committee seats, one on the International and High Performance Committee and the other on the Club & League Development Committee. This representation was conditional on an umbrella organisation being founded to cover ourselves and the other two supporters groups who submitted to the GRG, CRISC and ISN. To meet this condition, the Irish Football Supporters Partnership (IFSP) was formed and we have been working well together since.

After being made aware that changes to governance structures were coming, IFSP contacted the FAI at the end of October requesting a meeting to put forward some proposals we had been considering, Despite an acknowledgement, no further contact regarding a meeting was forthcoming and after sending a second request in a month later, we were informed that a briefing on the changes would be held the following week In early December, we attended that FAI briefing during which the proposals for the new General Assembly were shared. Within those proposals, supporters were allocated two seats out of the 131 Assembly seats being proposed. The International and High Performance Committee seat was retained and a second committee seat on a new National Football Leagues’ Committee was allocated as the Club & League Development Committee was to be disbanded. At that briefing we were assured that written submissions for changes would be welcomed and that a chance to present those submissions to the FAI would be accommodated.

Given the changes meant we were moving from a situation where supporters had two seats on a Council of 79 to one where we had two in a proposed General Assembly of 131, a significant proportional reduction, we requested that an additional seat be allocated to supporters. This would also have meant that all three groups in the IFSP would have a General Assembly seat.

In making that request, the IFSP prepared a detailed submission in which we also raised queries about our move from the ‘Special Interest’ constituency which we had been part of, into the new “Professional Chamber”, which impacts on the supporters’ path to potential board representation, and some additional points regarding term limits and gender balance. When we sent that in on December 12th, we highlighted that we were still looking forward to the opportunity to meet and present our proposal.

Despite a number of reminders, a consultation meeting was never scheduled. On February 13th, we received a letter from the FAI stating that our request for an additional seat had been denied and not only that, the proposal for a supporters seat on the Club & League Development Committee had been withdrawn, halving the number of committee seats assigned to supporters by the GRG process.

We issued a further written response on February 24th, once again requesting to reopen these discussions and give the process due diligence. Once again, following an initial acknowledgement, no further contact was forthcoming until a letter from the FAI on March 23rd denying our request. This is despite 10 additional General Assembly seats being created and allocated elsewhere since the original presentation, bringing the total to 141.

At the EGM yesterday, the IFSP read the below statement in order for it to be noted on the record.

“On behalf of the three supporters organisations that make up the Irish Football Supporters Partnership, we want to express our strong disappointment at how this consultation process has progressed.

We highlighted the pandemic would likely impact the format of discussions last Autumn but were assured at the time that full consultation would still be possible and was also a priority for the working group.

We’re not doubting the work & effort put in, but consultation is not being invited to a presentation, spending time preparing a detailed written response and, having been assured we would have the opportunity to present said response, then being informed of changes without any further dialogue or a detailed explanation until we pressed for it.

Bringing members on the governance journey, particularly within membership organisations, is not optional. It’s essential to ensure the long-term success of what’s being done.

The vast majority of people involved in Irish football are well aware that significant change is needed but it also needs to be the right kind of change, change that will deliver a meaningful cultural shift within this organisation.”

From a Mandate perspective, it is our belief that in efforts to bring about the reform that the association badly needs, taking the correct path is as important as the final destination. It is not our belief that the steps taken on this process did so.
We will continue to work on your behalf on the supporters agenda and for the betterment of the game in Ireland and will advise you on how we will manage the impact of the changes voted in yesterday in due course.

Thank you for your continued support.

YBIG Independent Supporters Mandate Committee.
Siobhan O’Brien
Eoin Byrne
Tony Considine
Paul Dornan
Paul Hickey
Kevin McDaid
Martin O’Meara

Written by YBIG 12

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Kevin Sheedy

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