Irish American Football Association elects Orla McAleese as new president in historic vote

The Irish American Football Association has undergone a historic change with the election of of a new president in Orla McAleese.

McAleese was voted in as the first female president ever of the IAFA in a landslide victory this past weekend. She is the former General Manager of Team Ireland and of the North Kildare Reapers.

Orla’s background is in event management,  and in addition to her 18 years of experience in this field, Orla has held the position of event manager of Ireland’s largest hotel, event and convention center in Citywest.

The implications of the shift in power in Ireland could be significant. The previous board staunchly supported IFAF Paris. In her statement, McAleese touched on a number of points one of which was transparency:

“Last but not least, Transparency. Now that I am your President. IAFA will be transparent in its operation. If the board works for you then they are accountable and accountability is reliant on transparency. From our finances to national and international matters, we will be clear in our dealings. The age of secrecy has ended.”

American Football International asked Orla about her election and her plans for the future of American football in Ireland.

AFI: Congratulations on your election. What prompted you to run for election in the first place?

McAleese: Having worked closely with the people on the ground at both club and National Team level there was an obvious disconnect between the administration and the “grass roots” of our game. It was becoming increasingly difficult for football to function at the various levels IAFA’s members expect it to. There needed to be, in my opinion, a re-framing of the relationship between our administrators and our member coaches, players and clubs. I was not alone in feeling this way as two other candidates put their names forward for the Presidential election.

AFI: Tell us a little about your background in football. You were Ireland’s team manager and your were with the North Kildare Reapers. How did you start?

McAleese: You can blame my husband for that. He was a coach for the Reapers and as a new club starting out, they needed people on the ground working with them on an administrative level. So the families, wives, girlfriends etc stepped up and I was one of them. I went in as PR and Development officer for the Reapers, eventually taking over the reigns as chairperson for a further 3 years. In that time, we were very productive in the league off the field and it didn’t go unnoticed by the board of that time. I was asked to join Team Ireland as their General Manger and I did so for 2 years. It was a fantastic experience working with our best coaches and players in the country, a true honor.

AFI: Your statement implies some major procedural changes. Will there be a shift in approach to international football?

McAleese: IAFA Elected a new president AND four new board members this weekend. While all of us have a lot of experience in club management and are successful in our non-football careers, we are all new to the IAFA Board. This is a clear mandate from the membership, who want a change in how things are done. We will work very hard to make this change an improvement. We will represent our members and their wishes in all matters, including International Football.

AFI: Over the past few years, IAFA has been embroiled in legal battles with college football. Will you be taking a different stance to the NCAA?

McAleese: Recently the relationship between IAFA and others in football has been strained. We are in a positive place right now and need time to revisit these relationships from this new and positive perspective.

AFI: How do you feel you can grow and develop football in Ireland?

McAleese: Everything grows from the ground up and we have some great people on the ground. We will grow the game by facilitating these people and encouraging them to achieve their potential. This week one of the young players who travelled to Holland with Team Ireland in 2016 secured a spot on the St Pölten Invaders roster in Austria. Everyone is our Association is excited about this as it confirms that the coaching and support in our teams is producing athletes and football players of a high calibre.

AFI: Will Team Ireland be more active?

There is a very strong desire among the Clubs, Coaches and Players in Ireland to have our sport represented at International Level. The work done by Team Ireland Coaches in building International programs has had a positive effect on the players and coaches involved and helped to raise the standard of coaching & play among many of our member clubs. It is vital that our players coaches and administrators have a clear and complete pathway within our sport. We have talent that can be applied in other sporting fields and it is up to us in the IAFA Board to ensure this potential is realized in Football!

New IAFA Board Members

In addition to McAleese as president, new board members were elected.  The new members of the Board are, Liam Ryan, from University of Limerick Vikings, who was elected to a three-year term after topping the poll. Stuart Donaldson of the Cork Admirals, who was also elected to a three-year term. Stevie McCrystal of the Belfast Knights, who was elected to complete the remaining two years of one of the vacated seats and Donncha Ó Conmhuí, of the Dublin Rebels, who was also elected to complete the remaining two years of one of the vacated seats.

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