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Dublin: 6°C Sunday 28 February 2021

Niall Quinn defends FAI's €30 million rescue package after Basketball Ireland criticism

The former Ireland striker has recently taken over as the association’s Interim Deputy CEO.

Niall Quinn pictured at today's League of Ireland season launch.
Niall Quinn pictured at today's League of Ireland season launch.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

NIALL QUINN HAS defended the Football Association of Ireland in the wake of controversy over funding it received.

The board of Basketball Ireland recently suggested their fellow sports organisation were handed a “get-out-of-jail-free card,“ while accusing the Government of “double standards” for signing off on a rescue package worth €30 million to the embattled association.

When Basketball Ireland found themselves in similar financial difficulty in 2008, as unexpected debts of €1.5 million were accumulated, they were not afforded similar funds, prompting cost-cutting measures, including suspension of their international programmes, half their employees being made redundant and a levy placed on members.

While Quinn expressed sympathy for Basketball Ireland’s plight, he defended the support granted to the FAI.

“We don’t want to go into a rivalry with other sports,” he said, speaking at today’s League of Ireland media launch.

“Basketball Ireland are unhappy and I understand that. But I want to us to be part of something with Basketball Ireland where we all go and show the government how important sport is and that basketball get their funding, that we get far more funding.

“At the moment there’s a bit of tit for tat and rightly so, because I will remonstrate with anybody who gives out about the money we got, because we’re handing €30 million minimum back to the exchequer in four months’ time.

“Rugby got €20 million — delighted for them. Would love to know how they did it. We’d love to use best practice going forward so we can get our stadia in the same boat, so we can get better facilities.

I don’t want to give out about Connacht. I don’t want to give out about the fact that they won’t be repaying the exchequer in June with a huge profit. I want to speak to them and see how can we all do it together.

“Can we find a forum where sport comes at government and continuously reminds government of its value? I’m sure some of you have seen the results of the socio-economic research and what football does for this country.

“It’s conveniently forgotten by most people and just because we got the support we got, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep that message going out there. We can’t fight with other sports. When the basketball one came up, the troika was in town at that time, the country was on its knees and I’ve huge sympathy for them. My two nieces played for Ireland at that time and it was really tough.

“It’s a different landscape now. And rather than saying ‘you got this and we didn’t get that’ — that day is gone. And rather than fighting, the day of ‘us and them,’ or giving out about GAA and rugby, let’s get together and improve everybody’s lot in sport.”

Meanwhile, Quinn also expressed hope that today represents the start of “a new approach by the FAI” in relation to the League of Ireland.

“I know, having been in here for the time we’ve been in here that we have to be enablers for the advancement of the game.

It has to start at League of Ireland. If we haven’t got an aspirational League of Ireland that’s in really good nick, how can the rest of our game aspire to be there? Particularly now that Brexit is coming in, and the uncertainty of whether our players will be travelling now at older ages to England.

“The good thing is we’re actually charged with doing that under the terms of the agreement. So this isn’t a good thing to do, we’re actually obliged to do this, or if we don’t do it, the government take the money back and it all falls apart. So that’s a great onus to have and to be working under.”

Elaborating on the potential ramifications of Brexit and whether or not it would benefit Irish football if promising young players are prevented from travelling to Britain until the age of 18, Quinn said: “Personally, I want to see any young person who leaves here to go to England with an education. 

“I was robbed in some ways of my education. I was in sixth year when I left, I could have stayed, but I didn’t. And I always regret that — I’ll get back and do it one day.

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“I’ve seen too much heartache in the meantime of young players going over without education. Some got playing again in League of Ireland and football stayed as the staple of their being. But for others, I’ve seen people annoyed by the game and the problems that it caused them.

“So I don’t have the correct answer for that right now [how the FAI will address the footballing ramifications of Brexit], but I would welcome a lift in the age to 18 of any player that goes over to sign full time.”

He continues: “We have to prove that there’s an elite programme in place here that they can be proud of. But I would take confidence that even in the sometimes chaotic regime that you guys have spoken long and hard about that we were still able to bring through the players that are showing their talents now — young players across the water.

“We’ve got to get our best-in-class facilities and best-in-class academy structures. We have the coaches. We have the players. We’ve shown that there’s more to be delivered on here.

“And those who think we’ve got a load of money off government and we’re delighted with ourselves, we’re not. That’s the start as far as I’m concerned. This new-look FAI, one of the big things we have to do, we have to change the messaging from this association. We have to let the people of Ireland know the importance and the value of football and the people who want to do that the most are the politicians.”

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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