Gender, Sport & FAI Setback

The Federal Association of Ireland motioned on proposed board changes addressing gender imbalance last week in a vote by the association’s General Assembly that fell short by almost 10%. The restructuring suggested an increase of the board to 14 members, with a 7/7 split between independent and elected directors, and an additional 2 female candidates to be added to the board, including the creation of a new Vice President role to be filled by a female contender. 


The FAI released the following statement following the EGM: “The FAI confirms that at tonight’s EGM, the General Assembly voted against the proposed constitutional change to allow two additional female candidates to join the FAI Board. The required 75 percent majority to pass the proposal was not reached.” The FAI risks enormous costs and cuts to its funding if it doesn’t reach government-mandated gender quotas of 40% female representation on its board by the end of the year. While the body still has time to reach the required target, the vote’s decision has caused controversy and dominated headlines in sports news.


In light of Eimear Ryan’s double-shortlisted memoir The Grass Ceiling, the EGM’s failure feels extremely relevant for the An Post Irish Book Awards. In a book that asks what is it like to be female in a male-dominated sporting world, Ryan navigates identity, performativity and status at a moment when women's sport is on the rise but still a long way from equality. 




“Girls who play sport are pressurized to course-correct, to demonstrate that despite the unfortunate competitive streak that leads them to pursue sport, they’re still feminine girly girls behind it all. So lather on the fake tan. Invest in a no-sweat foundation, the best you can afford. Put on tight-fitting yet effortless athleisure wear. Be strong, not skinny (but if skinny is a natural consequence of strong, what harm?). Be brilliant, but modest to a fault”, writes Eimear, dismantling how deep gender inequality runs in sport in a stark understanding of the complex emotional labouring sportswomen have to undertake. 


Last year saw Kellie by Kellie Harrington and Roddy Doyle take the prize; it is the story of Kellie’s journey to the top and her development into an elite boxer, the pages bubbling with her infectious personality. But before her enormous sporting success - she won medals at the 2016 and 2018 world championships, and took the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 -  her local, all-male boxing club initially wouldn’t let her join. But Kellie persisted, and this memoir is her unlikely and inspiring story, charting the obstacles and setbacks she overcame along the way.



On this year’s Eason Sports Book of the Year in Association with Ireland AM shortlist is also female talent Claire Walsh with Under Water, a remarkable book exploring how Claire found liberation through freediving. Learn more about all of this year’s Eason Sports Book of the Year in Association with Ireland AM shortlist here.


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