Wicklow Councillor Paul O’Brien, national president of the Irish Soccer Referees Society has been elected onto the National League Executive Committee at the recently reconvened FAI agm.
Speaking after being elected O’Brien said.
“It is easy to sit on the fence and throw stones, but that’s not going to resolve the difficulties facing the FAI and it certainly isn’t me, I want to try and make a positive difference. That is why I allowed my name go forward for election onto the NLEC.
The reality is that the games enjoyed by so many have to continue, the staff in the FAI, who have done nothing wrong have to be employed & the sport must be managed. So, when this opportunity presented itself I allowed my name to go forward for election”
The FAI was plunged into crisis last March after it emerged it’s former CEO John Delaney loaned the association €100,000, which was subsequently hid from most of the board members & stakeholders at the time. Since then Delaney has departed along with the entire FAI Board, this clearout will be completed when the current president Donal Conway steps down on the 25th of January and four new independent directors are appointed. The association is also facing debts of over €62m despite being reassured that they would be debt free by 2020.
Cllr O’Brien stated he was fed up of some elected represtatives and others complaining on social media about the situation despite never even attending a football match, let alone knowing what was really going on.
“The reality is if the FAI goes into liquidation we could lose our place on the world stage & be banned from playing international football. The Irish supporters have been voted the best supporters in the world on numerous occasions & yet some are calling for this, which is crazy. The damage this could lead to could take years to recover from and effect all aspects of the game, including grassroots football. I know plenty of decent people involved in the game, the real stakeholders & they just want what is best for our sport, as do I. To see this crisis engulf the Association is heartbreaking but be under no illusion, it was self inflicted, but one we must recover from”.
Asked if & how the FAI can ever recover from this O’Brien went onto to say;”
The Minister in charge needs to stop managing the crisis by social media & how many likes & comments he can get. He needs to sit down with all the stakeholders & get this crisis resolved, purely for the sake of the game and the many decent people involved. There also needs to be a clearout of the “hangers on” in the FAI, to many are in there for far too long & have used their positions within their respective leagues & the FAI to enhance their own personal interests. The new board needs the time and space to manage the crisis & restore the associations reputation & fortunes. Finally I think the footballing family needs to come together and unite, not tear ourselves apart and those that know nothing about the sport need to stop trying to point score for their own gain.”
“I will be stepping down as the national president of the referees next September, as I’m limited to serving two terms and I know I’m going to be busy with my county council work and running in the upcoming general election. However, I felt this was far too important to run away from, soccer is the biggest participant sport in the Country and if I can help it in any way I will. Some people will say I’m mad and that it’s a poison chalice, but to me the stakes are too high, others might say I’m only jumping on the bandwagon, well the reality is I won’t get paid for doing this and I can assure my constituents that my county council work will always come first and not suffer”.