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The Football Association of Ireland (FAI; ) is the governing body for the sport of association football (soccer) in the Republic of Irelandmarker. It should not be confused with the Irish Football Association (IFA), which is the organising body for the sport in Northern Irelandmarker. Full history, stats & records of the senior team are contained at Republic of Ireland national football team.


The FAI has an Executive Committee of five unpaid members under the President, as well as a paid administrative staff led by the General Secretary Joe Murphy'. There is also a General Council of delegates who vote at the AGM. As well as the senior clubs, the General Council includes delegates from a variety of affiliated organizations:

Recent changes have been made to the organizational structure following the publication of the "Genesis II" report of 2005. This includes the reorganization of the national football league system as the League of Ireland, in line with the recommendations.


The League of Ireland actually predated the FAI by three months. The FAI Cup was immediately established along the lines of the FA Cup and Scottish Cup competitions. A second cup competition was formed in 1974 called the League of Ireland Cup. The FAI Junior Cup and FAI Intermediate Cup are for non-League of Ireland teams. The Setanta Cup was inaugurated in 2005 as cross-border competition between FAI clubs from the League of Ireland and IFA clubs from the Irish League. The is also an Under 21 League of Ireland.

The FAI also organises schools competitions, and international teams, including the senior team, underage teams, and the Olympic team.


Split from the IFA

The FAI was formed in Dublin in September 1921 by the Free State League (League of Ireland), founded the previous June, and the Leinster FA, which had withdrawn from the IFA in June. This was the climax of a series of disputes about the alleged Belfastmarker bias of the IFA. The IFA had been founded in 1880 in Belfast as the governing body for football on the island of Ireland, which was then a single part ("Home Nation") of the United Kingdommarker. The Leinster FA was an affiliate founded in 1892 to foster the game in Leinster, outside its Ulster heartland. In 1921, all but two clubs in the Irish League were based in Ulster, in what had become Northern Irelandmarker the previous year. While this largely reflected the balance of footballing strength within Ireland, southern clubs felt the IFA was doing little to promote the game outside the professional clubs in its heartland. Elsewhere soccer was under pressure from the Gaelic Athletic Association, which banned members from playing or watching soccer as being a "foreign" game. World War I increased the gulf as the Irish League was suspended and replaced by regional leagues, foreshadowing the ultimate split. The Belfast members were mainly Unionist, while the Dublin members were largely Nationalist. Tensions were exacerbated by the Irish War of Independence of 1919-21, which disrupted contact between northern and southern clubs and prevented resumption of the Irish League. The security situation prompted the IFA to order the April 1921 Irish Cup semi-final replay between Glenavon and Shelbourne to be replayed in Belfast, rather than Dublin as convention dictated. This proved the final straw.

Both bodies initially claimed to represent the entire island. The split between Southern Ireland (which in 1922 became the Irish Free State) and Northern Ireland did not produce a split in the governing bodies of other sports, such as the Irish Rugby Football Union. The Munster FA, originally dominated by British Army regiments, had fallen into abeyance on the outbreak of World War I, and was re-established in 1922 with the help of the FAI, to which it affiliated. The Falls League, based in the Falls Road of nationalist West Belfast, affiliated to the FAI, and from there Alton United won the FAI Cup in 1923. However, when the FAI applied to join FIFAmarker in 1923, it was admitted as the FAIFS (Football Association of the Irish Free State) based on a 26-county jurisdiction. (This jurisdiction remains, although Derry City, from Northern Ireland, were given an exemption, by agreement of FIFA and the IFA, to join the League of Ireland in 1985.) Attempts at reconciliation followed: at a 1923 meeting, the IFA rejected an FAIFS proposal for it to be an autonomous subsiary of the FAIFS. A 1924 meeting in Liverpoolmarker, brokered by the English FA, almost reached agreement on a federated solution, but the IFA insisted on providing the chairman of the International team selection committee. A 1932 meeting agreed on sharing this role, but foundered when the FAIFS demanded one of the IFA's two places on the International Football Association Board.

The IFA did not feel obliged to refrain from selecting Free State players for its international team. The name Football Association of Ireland was readopted by the FAIFS in 1936, in anticipation of the change of the state's name in the pending Constitution of Ireland, and the FAI began to select players from Northern Ireland based on the Constitution's claim to sovereignty there. A number of players played for both the FAI "Ireland" (against FIFA members from mainland Europe) and the IFA "Ireland" (in the British Home Championship, whose members had withdrawn from FIFA in 1920). Shortly after the IFA rejoined FIFA in 1946, the FAI stopped selecting Northern players. The IFA stopped selecting southern players after the FAI complained to FIFA in 1950.


For many years, soccer was largely confined to Dublin and a few provincial towns. In some towns the game had been started by British Army teams, leading to the derisory nickname the "garrison game". Soccer was played in relatively few schools: middle-class schools favoured rugby union while others favoured Gaelic games. From the late 1960s, soccer began to achieve more widespread popularity. Minister Donogh O'Malley began a new program of state-funded schools in 1966, many with soccer pitches and teams. The Gaelic Athletic Association's ban on members playing "foreign" games was lifted in 1971. RTÉ television, founded in 1962, and British television (available nearly everywhere on cable or microwave relay from the 1970s), broadcast soccer regularly. Above all, the increasing success of the international side from the late 1980s gave increased television exposure, more fans, and more funds to the FAI.

Since 1988

However, increased media exposure also highlighted some inadequacies of its hitherto largely amateur organisation.

The door of the former FAI offices in Merrion Square, Dublin.
The "Merriongate" controversy broke in 1996 when the media reported that in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, the FAI had sought to acquire extra tickets for Ireland's matches by exchanging tickets it had been allocated for other games; sometimes with the relevant FAs, but sometimes with ticket tout. The FAI was left with many unsold tickets and heavy losses from these transactions. ("Merriongate" refers to the FAI's then-headquarters in Merrion Squaremarker, Dublin).

In January 1999, the FAI announced a planned national soccer stadium, to be called Eircom Park after primary sponsors Eircom. This was to be a 45,000 seat stadium in City West, modelled on the Gelredomemarker in Arnhemmarker. It gradually became apparent that the initial forecasts of cost and revenue had been very optimistic. FAI and public support for project was also undermined by the announcement of the National Stadium in Abbotstown, which would have 65,000 seats and be available free to the FAI, being funded by the state. The Eircom Park project was finally abandoned in March 2001, amid much rancour within the FAI..

The FAI made a joint bid with the Scottish FA to host the 2008 European Football Championship. This bid failed.

During preparation for the 2002 World Cup, the captain of the senior football team (Roy Keane) left the training camp and returned to his home. He was critical of many aspects of the organisation and preparation of the team for the upcoming games, and public opinion in Ireland was divided. As a result of the incident, the FAI commissioned a report from consultants Genesis into its World Cup preparations. The "Genesis Report" made a number of recommendations, many of which were subsequently implemented. The complete report was never published for legal reasons.

In 2002, the FAI announced a deal with British Sky Broadcasting to sell broadcasting rights to Ireland's international matches, as well as domestic soccer, to be televised on its satellite subscription service. The general public felt it should be on RTÉmarker, the free-to-air terrestrial service, in spite of their offering much lower rates. Faced with the prospect of the government legislating to prevent any deal, the FAI agreed to accept an improved, but still lower, offer from RTÉ.

Following the respectable performance of the national team in the 2002 World Cup, the team's fortunes have subsequently declined, under the management of Mick McCarthy and his successors, first Brian Kerr, and then Steve Staunton.

In September 2006, Lars-Christer Olsson, CEO of UEFA, was quoted as anticipating that Lansdowne Roadmarker in Dublin (actually owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union) would stage the UEFA Cup Final in 2010, and that the FAI and the IFA would co-host the 2011 European Under-21 Championship. The 2010 final was ultimately awarded to Hamburgmarker, but in January 2009, UEFA named Lansdowne Road as the host stadium for the renamed 2011 UEFA Europa League Final.

The 2007 season saw the FAI start a five year term of running the League of Ireland after merging with the League. There was controversy over the manner in which clubs were allocated between the two division of the new League, as simple promotion and relegation from the previous season's leagues was not used, but rather a weighting of results, infrastructure and finances.

In November 2007 the FAI moved to new headquarters at the Sports Campus Ireland in Abbotstown. Its headquarters since the 1930s had been a Georgian terraced house at 80 Merrion Square, which was sold for a sum variously reported as "in excess of €6m" and "almost €9m".

On February 13, 2008, Giovanni Trapatoni was confirmed to take over as the new Republic of Ireland manager in May.


  1. FAI affiliates
  2. Chapter 6: "The game 1914-24: decline and division"
  3. O'Mahony, op. cit., pg.31
  4. pp. 23-5
  5. Ryan, op. cit. pg 33
  6. Players Appearing for Two or More Countries
  7. Ryan, op. cit. pg 50
  8. Ryan, op. cit. pg 61
  9. : Chapter 1: "Merriongate"
  10. Menton, op.cit. Chapter 2: "Eircom Park and the National Stadium"
  11. Menton, op.cit. pp 349-50
  12. Menton, op.cit. Chapter 6: "The Sky TV Deal"
  13. "Lansdowne may host 2010 UEFA final" from Radio Telefís Éireann, 28 September 2006

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