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'The progress around the women’s game is just going too slow' - Bell reveals FAI disagreement as he makes exit

The departing coach revealed he wanted to remain in his post, but his vision for the future did not survive an FAI Board meeting on Thursday.

Colin Bell.
Colin Bell.
Image: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

THE NOW-FORMER Republic of Ireland women’s manager Colin Bell has shone a light on the reasons for his surprise departure from the FAI earlier today.

It was announced this morning that Bell was leaving his job to take on an assistant role with English Championship side Huddersfield, but as he told Peter Collins on RTÉ’s World Cup coverage this evening, he was eager to remain with the FAI. 

His vision for the future, however, did not pass an FAI Board meeting on Thursday evening. 

“I had a fantastic offer [from Huddersfield] which I declined, then Huddersfield made a better offer and then I told the FAI what was going on. The question then was ‘What do we have to do to keep you?’

“So we went through a few things and had some really good conversations. I made a list of things I thought needed to be done, and how my position should then be defined. We were speaking about over the next four years.

“We were all very optimistic that that would happen, but after a board meeting which happened on Thursday evening, this was not able to come to fruition. Unfortunately, I had to make the decision to leave the FAI.

“One side of me is very, very honoured to get an offer from a Championship side, but I’m hoping that the girls can carry on the way we’ve been going.

“I’m absolutely devastated to give up this team, I loved working in Ireland, I loved working with the girls, so it’s been a rollercoaster, emotionally, the last few days. One side of me is very happy and honoured, the other side of me is absolutely gutted that I have to leave such a fantastic set of players.”

Bell agreed with Collins’ question whether the FAI’s financial travails amid a welter of reports and investigations affected his remaining in the job. 

“I think probably the board at the moment want to try to play safe, but I think it would have been a fantastic opportunity in this time when things are very, very negative.

“There’s a lot of stress for a lot of people, I appreciate that, but I think it would have been a fantastic move to really show that we want to grow the women’s game in Ireland. But it just wasn’t possible.

“But the FAI have to make sure the women’s game continues to grow and I think my plan would have helped.

“The women’s national team has come on in leaps and bounds, but still, I was a little bit frustrated that work on the actual structures of underage football and the women’s national league was going too slow, and I think I had a good plan in place to improve that.

“I was told, basically, that things would carry on as they were to start off with, and then we’d see what happened, but that wasn’t good enough for me. I want progression at every level, and I think I would have been able to really, really grow the game.

“It will grow, I’m sure, because we’ve got a great set of girls, but the progress in and around the women’s game is just going too slow, as far as I’m concerned.”

Bell had been making good progress with the senior team, integrating a number of young players along with achieving a couple of eye-catching results, most notably a qualifier draw away to a Dutch side who today qualified for the World Cup semi-finals. 

With European qualifying campaign in the autumn, attention now turns to appointing his successor, with Dave Connell understood to be the early frontrunner for the role. 

The FAI declined to comment when contacted by The42.

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Gavin Cooney

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