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08th Jul 2024

FAI apologises to former Irish female players following sexual abuse allegations

Callum Boyle

FAI

‘We are sorry for what you had to endure’

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has apologised to former female professionals and trainees on a FAS soccer training course who were the victims of unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances from FAI coaches.

Interim CEO David Courell spoke to in front of the media on Monday morning at the FAI headquarters in which he said they were “sorry that the modern practices and reporting structures that we now have in place were not there for you when you needed them”.

He continued: “We are sorry for what you had to endure, we’re sorry that anyone could have ever felt unsafe.

“We’re sorry that anyone could have ever felt unsafe in Irish football.”

People & Culture Director Aoife Rafferty also responded to the recent RTÉ Investigates and the Sunday Independent case which was published on Sunday.

“I’m truly sorry that anyone involved in Irish football would ever feel unsafe…” Rafferty said.

FAI briefing

Interim FAI CEO Courell promises to prioritise safeguarding protocols

Continuing from his apology, Courell stressed that the FAI would ensure that safeguarding protocols were fully enforced and that everyone must be aware of them going forward.

Courell said: “The reality is learnings like this, experiences like this bring greater emphasis on the need for safeguarding structures to be as strong as possible.

“We need to redouble our efforts and make sure that an awareness of existing safeguarding protocols are fully understood, fully respected, and that people feel and know that they have somewhere to go to if they have an issue.”

Players recall accounts of allegations

As part of the investigation, Marie Crowe of RTÉ and Mark Tighe of the Sunday Independent revealed allegations made by trainees about former head coach of the FAS training course, Eamonn Collins.

Bridget McDonald, who was 21 at the time, alleged that Mr Collins took her on a night out drinking which resulted in her having sexual intercourse with the coach – who then warned that she could be pregnant.

A separate case involving Lynn Winters explained how Collins made her captain of the team before taking her on several dates.

“He would put his hands down my shorts or touch my breasts or in passing, making a joke out of it,” Winters said. “I touched his penis and kissed him and I… Yeah, that was it.”

Another encounter by a player, who was referred to as ‘Adele’ throughout the investigative piece also told her story where she was asked to clean the training equipment in a room before Collins then returned.

“He walked towards me and he started to kiss me and before I knew it, I was pinned up against the shower wall and he was kissing me.

“He took my hand and he put it down his trousers and he was wanting me to please him, and obviously I wasn’t doing the correct job, or whatever.”

When asked about the allegations, Collins released a statement via his solicitor to say he “emphatically and unreservedly denies any improper relationship or conduct”.

Players from the 1990s also raised allegations about then-manager, Mick Cooke.

His solicitors also released a statement which said: “All of the allegations in your letter of the 24th of June are denied.

“People we have spoken to expressed shock at the allegations.

“They were of the view that the atmosphere around the international team during Mr Cooke’s tenure as manager was excellent, he fostered a great team spirit and many of the players often expressed the view it was the time of their lives.”