2017 FAI Festival of Football celebrated at AGM
This is the 11th year that the Festival of Football has visited a different county in the build-up to the AGM to promote and recognise the superb work being done at grassroots level. This year, the FAI delegation visited 25 clubs across Kilkenny over the space of a week.
With former Republic of Ireland internationals Ray Houghton, Keith Andrews and Stephen Hunt, current Ireland WNT internationals Megan Campbell, Roma McLaughlin, and Leanne Kiernan, as well as a host of Ireland head coaches including Martin O'Neill and Colin Bell, the delegation hosted fun days, coaching clinics, and presentations.
Some of the highlights of the Festival of Football included:
- €120,000 grant funding, plus equipment and tickets supplied to clubs
- Over 2.8million people reached on social media with unprecedented levels of engagement
- An estimated 5,000 people turned out on the 25 different club visits
- 22 awards were given out at the Delegates Dinner to celebrate excellence in grassroots football
At the AGM, it was announced that Niamh O'Donoghue will become the first woman appointed to the FAI Board of Management.
The current chairperson of the Women's Football Committee, O'Donoghue has been hugely influential in Irish football over the past three decades as she was part of the organising team for the UEFA Under 16 European Championships in 1994 and has helped to drive women's football on to a new level.
Involved in football administration as a volunteer since the early 1980's, O'Donoghue was elected as chair of the Ladies Football Association (subsequently renamed the Women's Football Association of Ireland, WFAI) and joined the FAI National Council in 1991 when the LFAI achieved formal recognition from the FAI.
With that appointment, O'Donoghue became the first woman to be appointed to the FAI Council. She has served in both capacities ever since, in addition to playing a pivotal role on various committees, appeal boards and working groups under the aegis of the FAI.
As part of the process that saw the WFAI dissolved and women's football integrated within the FAI by the creation of the Women's Football Committee, the Association gave the commitment to appoint its chairperson to the FAI Board by 2018. At the AGM in Kilkenny, that commitment was honoured.
FAI CEO John Delaney welcomed the decision by stating: "The appointment of Niamh O'Donoghue to the FAI Board is not just an important milestone in the history of the game and a recognition of our determination to build on the progress made in the women's game in recent years, but another hugely positive change in a constantly evolving and developing governance landscape."
FAI President Tony Fitzgerald echoed those sentiments by saying: "The FAI Board are delighted to take this important step towards improving Irish football with the appointment of such a distinguished volunteer in Niamh O'Donoghue. She has been a driving force for women's football for many years and her input will be hugely valuable to the Association going forward."
It was also announced that the SSE Airtricity National Under 13 League will commence in March 2019 to add to the elite player pathway that currently includes the Under 17 and Under 19 League while the Under 15 League will kick off in August this year.
The continued growth of participation numbers was highlighted with record figures for the SPAR Primary 5's, SportsDirect.com FAI Summer Soccer Schools, and Aviva Soccer Sisters camps. Aligned with the Player Development Plan, which brought 39 workshops around the country, the focus on player development has never been stronger.
With the Association investing more than €20m in the game - at all levels - over the past year, it was revealed that the turnover was at €50m and the current bank debt is at €34m. And the added investment from sponsors has enabled more support for a variety of programmes, from Football For All through to Late Nite Leagues.
The Association continues to plan for the future to improve Irish football at all levels.