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Long: FAI is a 'toxic brand'

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Bohemians manager Keith Long

Bohemians manager Keith Long

SPORTSFILE

Bohemians manager Keith Long

Bohemians boss Keith Long has voiced his frustrations at the state of the game in Ireland in 2020 and has argued that the FAI is a "toxic brand and needs to be razed to the ground and start again".

Long's side have been back in training for two weeks, Bohs preparing for a return to European football in August after an eight-year absence, though there is still no confirmed date for the restart of the domestic season.

He has given credit to the attempts by FAI CEO and Deputy CEO Gary Owens and Niall Quinn to secure the return to action in the face of a funding shortfall but Long is frustrated that fundamental issues at the heart of the Irish game remain unaddressed.

"We have to stop having the same conversations we have been having for decades about Irish football. The game has been abused for far too long and we have regressed at every level.

"It is time for Irish football to take control of its own destiny and stop making excuses and apologies," Long said in a message to Gypsies supporters, to be published in a digital club programme.

"For many years we have heard the phrase 'football family'. It's a phrase I detest and in my opinion should never be used when referencing anything good about Irish football. It should be consigned to the history books only to serve as a reminder of our darkest period in Irish football.

"Football in this country is dysfunctional and fractured. We have power, control, alliances, ego, spin, self-interest and self-preservation at the core of all our problems.

"We operate in a toxic environment where self-service and agendas always take precedence. It is arguable that the FAI is a toxic brand and the organisation needs to be razed to the ground and start again.

"It should be remembered that while UEFA gave all national bodies an advance payment of €3.4million to deal with Covid-19 related costs, that money was not available to the FAI as the Delaney era board had already spent it.

"Irish football was abused at every level under the previous regime and the volatility of football in this country is a problem inherited by Gary Owens and Niall Quinn.

Aftermath

"In the aftermath of the Delaney era we were assured things would be different, things were going to be better and that the highest level of senior football in this country would be a central aspect of the FAI strategy.

"Gary Owens and Niall Quinn have staked their reputations on getting the League of Ireland up and running again, yet they have inherited a mess. I have no doubt they have been working extremely hard to broker a deal but the time is now for them to deliver on their words and provide a viable financial plan for football's return," Long added.

"I despair to think what the future holds if we continue on the path we are currently on. The culture has got to change and it has to change now, radical, meaningful, organisational change needs to happen built on solid foundations and not sand.

"There's is such potential in our game, we have many great people that have been silenced for far too long. We have many great voices that have not been heard or have not been listened to.

"We have many great people whom we must try to restore their faith in Irish football to help us as an industry gain some self respect. We must not allow football to continue in this spiral of demise," the Bohs boss added, pleased to be back in training ahead of Europa League football in August.

"Our players have felt safe and secure and have been excited to be able to increase the level of intensity of training, as we build up to a resumption of league and European football.

"Of course there are many hurdles to overcome and as yet we don't have a definite return to league action which is hugely dispiriting for all football practitioners as it seems we will be the last summer league in Europe without a date for restart.

"European competition is hugely competitive and preparation is severely hampered with such uncertainty. In effect it will be similar to the old traditional season when teams are in pre season with limited number of games played prior to competition. As much as our preparation is geared towards Europe and we feel the boys are in good condition you cannot replicate games and we have a big challenge on our hands to prepare the team in advance of competitions."