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Quinn group now at heart of the FAI

Former Ireland striker defers his salary and spreads positivity as he pledges LOI revamp

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Niall Quinn has taken up the newly created role of FAI Interim Deputy CEO

Niall Quinn has taken up the newly created role of FAI Interim Deputy CEO

Niall Quinn has taken up the newly created role of FAI Interim Deputy CEO

Former Republic of Ireland international Niall Quinn says that persuading the Government to provide more funding to soccer is one of his key goals following his appointment in the new role of Interim Deputy CEO.

And his arrival into the post signals the effective takeover of key FAI roles by a faction aligned to Quinn as members of his Visionary Group, Roy Barrett and Gary Owens, are already in place as Independent Chairman and Interim CEO of the FAI.

But despite his pledge to defer his salary for the post, which he says will be a "fraction of what the old gang were at", referring to the €360,000 annual salary paid to previous CEO John Delaney, there has already been some scepticism in the reaction to his appointment.

Reaction

"Mother Theresa - from the streets of Calcutta to Abbotstown! Spare me," was the reaction on Twitter from outgoing Sinn Féin TD and former Cork City FC board member Jonathan O'Brien.

Quinn (53) has had no formal role in Irish football or FAI affairs since he retired from international football in 2002, having won 92 caps.

But the former Sunderland chairman has been on the fringes of soccer politics in Ireland for a number of months, as the Visionary Group, headed by Quinn, emerged last summer as one of the factions looking to overhaul the FAI with a plan to revamp the domestic league.

However, early proposals by Quinn, including a suggestion that the Irish football could be improved by importing Brazilian players into the League of Ireland and getting them to declare for Ireland to play internationally, were greeted with derision.

Quinn's faction were one of two groups to make a presentation to FAI officials and club delegates at a convention last July, with a rival group, headed by Kerry-born tech entrepreneur Kieran Lucid, also staking a claim for a role in a new-look FAI.

In October, an FAI statement claimed that "Niall Quinn's Visionary Group have withdrawn from the process", an allegation which angered Quinn's group, who responded by saying the FAI had behaved in a "disingenuous manner by providing false information to the public".

The Visionary Group then took a step back from the public side of the process, but the appointment this month of Roy Barrett, Gary Owens and now Quinn have given them a strong influence over the immediate direction of the FAI.

An FAI statement confirming his appointment said his role "will focus on leading a future League of Ireland strategy, the overall development of the game in Ireland, including supporting grassroots and community initiatives" as well as "restoring and building key relationships and trust with key peer groups".

Speaking to Virgin Media, where he has been working as a pundit, Quinn said he wanted to see more Government funding for the FAI.

"I will knock on the door every now and again to say 'remember us, you know there is a lot of money bet on football'. We've got these good things in place, the community development stuff, the player pathway, the League of Ireland, all of this, I think, deserves more than €2.9 million a year," Quinn said.

Quinn outlined some very ambitious plans for the league in a number of media engagements over the past 18 months, one proposal last year, before the implosion at the FAI in March, that all 20 League of Ireland clubs be allocated €2m for their academies.

Distance

He repeatedly distanced himself from the CEO position, but has now come on board, hoping to revamp the domestic league.

"The League of Ireland has an ability, I believe, to make football thrive in this country, in those summer months when there is no football anywhere else in Europe and we are playing our football on Friday nights and Mondays, I think that can be expanded," he told Virgin Media.

"It's a difficult time for staff, I know. But I'll hopefully be meeting up with everybody on Monday and trying to instil a bit more confidence in the system that it's not as bleak as some of the pictures that were painted and that there is a growth pattern there that it is envisaged we can all be part of," he added.