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'It wasn't attractive. The old FAI is alive and well': Disillusioned Quinn withdraws interest in director role

‘The current president, having been involved in the previous regime, has hardly come out of it as a shining light,’ added Brian Kerr.

FORMER REPUBLIC OF Ireland striker Niall Quinn has confirmed a report written by Paul Rowan in last week’s Sunday Times which claimed he has ended his interest in becoming an independent director in the FAI, with Brian Kerr echoing his disillusionment with the association’s reform process.

Quinn said during Virgin Media Sport’s Tuesday-night Champions League coverage that despite the perpetual state of scandal within which the association finds itself, “the old FAI is alive and well”.

The nation’s second-highest-ever goalscorer did suggest that he would be interested in assisting the League of Ireland’s Premier Clubs Alliance (PCA) should they push to affect change within the organisation. A subgroup of the PCA was due to hold frank talks with the FAI on Tuesday following further revelations regarding the association’s financial conduct in the Sunday Times — including a man being paid almost three times more for suggesting a sponsored walk than the League of Ireland champions receive for winning the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.

But when asked if it would be correct to say he had turned down the opportunity to become one of the FAI’s four new independent directors, Quinn replied: “Near enough. I didn’t turn down the opportunity to become a director, I turned down the chance of being selected.

“So I didn’t submit any desire to do that — as neither of the people possibly from a group that I had put together may have done in different circumstances.

“And it’s simply because the governance review group, where it’s ended up and allowing the association to have eight of their board members from within the game and four from outside the game — those numbers don’t stack up well if you want to go in and change things.

“If I point back, May, start of June, we were very ambitious, felt great; there was a feeling around there that real change was going to happen.

“And things went quiet.

The AGM came along, and suddenly the review group allowed eight of the ‘old’ FAI, if you like, to get together, and that didn’t attract any great desire from anyone to go in and do anything about it. And then, also, when they turned down the opportunity to put two women on the board, I think that was poor. And then to turn around and say that the two [women] must come from the four independents that come in…

“Four women might be the answer! They might be the greatest directors,” Quinn clarified, before continuing: “But all in all, it didn’t suit. For me personally and I know for one or two people that were working with me, it wasn’t attractive.

The old FAI is alive and well. Although I dare say with the revelations that were out at the weekend and where everything is going, there’ll be a lot of pressure on the old guard, still, to prove that they’re the correct people to turn the corner. We just didn’t fancy being a bit of that.

donal-conway FAI president Donal Conway. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Asked by presenter Tommy Martin if he was frustrated with how circumstances had panned out, he replied: “No, not at all.

I think that there’s another group of people there who I think could really make a difference, and that’s the League of Ireland — the league clubs. I’d be very interested to see how they’re getting on. They’ve constituted themselves, I believe, to be part of one group looking at options themselves going forward.

“I saw in today’s paper (Tuesday’s Irish Independent) that they’re pretty annoyed with the old FAI because of the revelations of the weekend and how difficult it’s been for League of Ireland clubs. And they’re looking for clarification on what they can do and achieve in the future. If we can be of assistance to that, then that would be great.

“So it’s not all doom and gloom, but at the same time…”

“The old guard needs to move away?” Martin then suggested.

“Ah, sure look,” Quinn replied, “I think I wouldn’t be the only one saying that.

They’ve kind of circled the wagons, gotten themselves back into power because of the governance review group and what they came up with. That was disappointing for outsiders like me who probably might have gone in had things been different — where you could go in there and know you could participate in real change.

“I think you’ve got to go in there and be part of something that doesn’t look to have changed very much.”

Asked by Martin if he shared some of Quinn’s reservations as to how the reform process is taking shape, fellow Virgin Media Sport panellist Brian Kerr replied: “Yeah, of course. I think the structure of the initial review group — Aidan Horan’s group — was wrong.

“The two ladies representing the FAI hardly represented the greater football body, or [had such] expertise or great knowledge of football that they were going to make an impact. They certainly had an impact on the gender-balance issue.

“I looked at the advertisement for the four independent directors. I didn’t think it was very clear or very attractive for anyone who is an expert in any particular area of football or business to go for it. I hope they get four decent people.

But the bit that concerned me more was that I understood from the report that the Football Management Committee was going to be a very, very important committee, and now it turns out that there may be three independent people on that, but they will be decided by the current president — who is also the past president — and also the vice president. They are going to be the two leaders of that group. Now, the current president, having been involved in the previous regime, has hardly come out of it as a shining light.

Asked if current FAI president Donal Conway should step away from the role, Kerr answered: “Well, that’s what nearly everybody has wanted.

Aidan Horan’s report mentioned that it ‘might be’ a good thing if one or two people stayed on to help the handover process, but they (the FAI) have taken the bull by the horns and made sure that they’ve got those two people from the board and another six people that have already been part of the council.

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