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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 29 March, 2020

Niall Quinn wants Irish football representatives making 'regular trips' to the Dáil

The former Ireland striker, along with his new colleagues at the FAI, have been tasked with reinvigorating the game in this country.

Niall Quinn, interim deputy FAI CEO, pictured with players at the League of Ireland launch day.
Niall Quinn, interim deputy FAI CEO, pictured with players at the League of Ireland launch day.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION of Ireland’s Interim Deputy CEO Niall Quinn outlined his future hopes for Irish football clubs during the League of Ireland media day on Wednesday.

The former Arsenal striker, along with his new colleagues at the FAI, have been tasked with reinvigorating the game in this country after a series of off-field controversies involving the previous regime damaged the sport’s reputation.

Crucial to this new approach will be Quinn and co’s handling of the League of Ireland, and the Dubliner is determined to do a better job than his predecessors in creating a healthy and vibrant domestic game.

“We’ve been charged with doing better things with it than have been done in the past. If we go to facilities, you’ll see in the terms that Minister [Shane] Ross made us sign up to that we’re charged over the next five years to help clubs improve their facilities.

“Straight away, I can tell you we’ll be putting an office together to equip clubs better in applying for capital grants et cetera.

I think we’re all pretty despondent by the recent public funding announcements pre-election where we only had two applications in the world of Irish football. One of them was successful, one of them unsuccessful. We should have had every club that needed facilities in with a fabulous bid at that moment in time. We’re charged with doing that, so we’ll pay for that for a start, but there will be more stuff to follow.

“I do think it’s important that we make regular trips to Dáil Éireann to remind our political leaders of the value of football in this country and indeed other sports.

“If we can bring an understanding of that value to the public and we move away from the pain that this association has been in over the last period of time, I think then we can start to believe we’ll win those grants and League of Ireland clubs will really feel as though they’ve got a product that can kick on like in other countries.

“We’ve no choice but to help League of Ireland clubs. The way I would put it now is the new-look FAI is now an enabler for League of Ireland, it is not a blocker. And that’s quite important. Anywhere they want to go and where they feel is important, we’ll be there to enable and support.”

Quinn also suggested this approach could extend to allowing clubs establish an entity independent of the FAI to run the League of Ireland, as is done with the Premier League and FA in England among other countries.

“We’ll listen to clubs on that. The tie is needed there of course, because of the Uefa qualification. We’re happy to take the clubs lead on that. But what’s very important here is that we don’t jump ahead of our friends in Northern Ireland and we’re doing stuff we do together. Our association must be respectful to the needs of the association and the league up north. If that starts coming together and the clubs are giving good feedback on that, we’re here as an enabler to make that happen only if it’s wanted on all sides. If it’s not going to happen, we’ll put all that energy into the League of Ireland.”

Elsewhere, there has been signs of a lack of unity in Irish football recently, with tension between certain schoolboy clubs and League of Ireland underage outfits prone to squabbling over what’s best for promising young players.

Quinn, however, feels it is essentially that every football team in the country is singing from the same hymn sheet.

“Everybody has to go in together. We believe in an elite League of Ireland in riproaring shape lifts the game with it. Look at every other country in the world, they’ll give you the results on that.

There should be no fear from grassroots, amateur and particularly women’s football — we actually have ringfenced money that women’s football never had before. And I believe we are so close at senior level to the elite of women’s football, we can foresee a time where women’s football would really start to trip the light fandango in terms of where it can go. So all those structures, we’ll definitely be [aiding] that as part of at the top of the women’s national league and everything that comes underneath it.

“In terms of football for all, those who play the amateur game, grassroots, the rest of the game rises and the aspirations rise and standards rise, because the top of the game that they aspire to is in better shape. That’s the five-year plan.

“The visionary group came together because we want to do something for Irish football. We did not foresee being in the roles we are now, the three of us.”

Quinn also was unable to say if the League of Ireland prize money this year would be increased under the current regime’s watch.

“I would be killed if I went and said to you ‘yes’. I would like to see it, but there’s a structure in place. We’re not overflowing with cash falling out of cash registers. We got survival money. But there might have been some practices in the past we could alter and that might be seen in a better light with the League of Ireland clubs.”

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Paul Fennessy

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