Saturday 25 January 2020

Mood music finally changing at the FAI

Quinn excited with the quality of people who want to get involved with football

Niall Quinn is confident in the future of Irish football
Niall Quinn is confident in the future of Irish football

For the FAI's new independent directors, there will be no honeymoon period. Their job is to clean up the mess from somebody else's big bash.

Roy Barrett, Liz Joyce and Catherine Guy got straight down to work yesterday.

They met FAI staff in Abbotstown in the morning to try and offer some assurances about their intentions for the road ahead, with experienced HR director Joyce prominent in those discussions.

Then there was an afternoon summit with Ministers Shane Ross and Brendan Griffin which led to another remarkably positive statement from Ross.


His assertion that the government is now committed to assisting the FAI in moving forward is a contrast from a month ago when he said that the Abbotstown request for €18m in the form of a bailout wasn't credible.

Indeed, the Ross-ometer is now swinging towards over-the-top exuberance again after he declared in a statement that the "old guard have now been excised".

He may have been speaking in terms of the board, but he should take a trip to the next FAI Council meeting.

Nevertheless, it's clear that the language around the troubled body is changing and there is a mood of confidence heading into crunch talks with UEFA next Tuesday.

That was initially scheduled as discussions between government officials and the European guests, but there is now a feeling that the independent directors will have a role in the day's proceedings.

Barrett will chair FAI board meetings going forward and other members of that group have been buoyed by the arrival of individuals who are more qualified to deal with the problems they have encountered.

The immediate priority is crisis management, and it will be a while before we get a handle on their vision from a footballing perspective. In truth, their main role over the next few months will be identifying a new chief executive.

Niall Quinn - an associate of Barrett - has ruled himself out of that equation. Barrett's offices housed meetings for Quinn's Visionary Group that didn't get too far with their plans for the League of Ireland.

Indeed, Quinn effectively acknowledged yesterday that Kieran Lucid's all-island league plan - which hasn't gone away - was more advanced.

The ex-Ireland striker is open to another role helping out the FAI and feels Barrett has "outstanding" qualities that will make him a good fit.

On a poignant note, he pointed out yesterday that Barrett got in touch initially after hearing Quinn give an interview on the Marian Finucane Show about the ills of the game here and the need for investment in the League of Ireland. "In a funny world, it wouldn't have happened without Marian," he said.

Quinn has indicated that he might have some role to play in the direction of the league and grass-roots football and in time the new appointments will learn about the idiosyncrasies of the sport in this country.


The row brewing over the Shamrock Rovers 'B' team offers a small window into the problems, and fresh voices are needed in these discussions.

"One of the great things that has emerged in the last six months is the quality of person that wants to do something to help football in this country," said Quinn.

"And, by that, I'm not having a go at anyone from the past but there seems to be, at the top world of corporate finance, for instance - I've been at a few events - people have been coming up and it's, 'There's my card and if I can help, I'd love to see football treated properly'.

"Government are probably going that way too. It's taken a lot to get there but it does feel as if the game will be served better now in the next while."

Before then, it needs to get through the next week.

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