FAI chief Hill says board will review Kenny’s performance at end of campaign

Hill emphasises the primary goal for every Ireland team is to win matches

FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill and women’s senior manager Vera Pauw at the announcemtn that Sky are to sponsor the women’s senior team for the next four years. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill and women’s senior manager Vera Pauw at the announcemtn that Sky are to sponsor the women’s senior team for the next four years. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill has refused to give Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny the full backing of the association until after the final World Cup qualifier in Luxembourg on November 14th.

Hill, who has been ceo for 10 months, was speaking at the announcement of Sky’s four-year deal to sponsor the international women’s shirt.

“Look, we have said very clearly what our normal approach is to every international window and we review that window at the end of it at our board meeting, and we do that hopefully in a calm and collective way,” Hill replied to a direct question about Kenny having the full support of the FAI.

The revamped FAI board meet at the end of every month or following an international window.

“We definitely do it in a collective way, if that makes sense, as a group and we will continue to do it as a group,” said Hill. “We will review the whole World Cup qualification campaign in the same way in November at the same board meeting. We will discuss all the issues, and we will have our reports that we will look at, and we will review them accordingly.

“One thing I will say about the board, over the last 10 months that I have been involved, is that there is a really open process there so everyone will be able to give their view.

“This isn’t about one person,” added the 58-year-old Englishman. “It isn’t the view of one person, it is the view of 12 men and women.

“Hopefully we will do that in a calm and considered manner.”

On Kenny’s comments last Monday, when the Dubliner revealed that his management’s main focus is to build a young squad that can qualify for the European Championships in 2024, Hill emphasised the primary goal for every Ireland team is to win matches despite speaking to Kenny about aims beyond both of their current contracts.

“For me, the context of what Stephen was saying is that it is very difficult to qualify for a Fifa World Cup. Statistically, it is almost twice as difficult for a Fifa World Cup with 13 teams as it is to qualify for a Euros with 24 teams.

“It is not an easy process. We were the third seed in that group and clearly we were going to be playing two strong sides. And we have played two very strong sides. International football is very competitive.

“You heard me saying, with regards to the Sky announcement, is that for Stephen and his team, the FAI staff and board, you guys as the media and the public, expect or want us to win every single game that we play at every single level? Absolutely.

“But we know that football does not always deliver that and we have to be realistic in relation to that. That is my take on the context of Stephen’s comments.”

Kenny’s contract runs until July 2022.

Previously, Hill spoke in detail, while sitting alongside Ireland women’s manager Vera Pauw and Sky Ireland ceo JD Buckley, about Sky’s return to the shirt sponsoring business following their long association with British cycling.

“We do believe today is a historic moment for Irish football, for women and girls around Irish football,” said Hill. “It comes on the back of a historic week in terms of the announcement around equal pay [for male and female senior international teams].”

Buckley revealed that Sky has no plans to sponsor the men’s national team – “that is not on our radar right now” – which is the highest priority for Hill, a former commercial director for the English FA, after Three ended their relationship with the FAI in July 2020.

“I’m less worried about timeframe than I am the quality of the partner we can find,” said Hill. “We want to find a partner who is committed not in the short-term but the long-term. We’ll be looking for a four-year deal in the same way we have signed a four-year deal for Sky with the women’s team. It’s that type of long-term partner who takes a wider and holistic view of a partnership with Irish football.”

Buckley expressed interest in Sky reaching a broadcast arrangement with the FAI when RTÉ’s current deal to televise women’s international football ends next year.

“We are not disclosing the amounts,” said Buckley of the agreement, “but it’s fair to say, from the research we’ve done, it’s probably the biggest deal in Irish women’s sport.”

Pauw, despite the disappointment of next week’s opening qualifier for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand being postponed until June 2022 due to Georgia forcing people travelling from the UK to quarantine, was hugely encouraged by today’s announcement.

Twenty two of her current Ireland squad are playing under professional contracts in England or Scotland.

“When I heard it was Sky, I have goose bumps because a partner like Sky will inspire all of the girls because there will be features, all the games are already live on TV but there will be much more around that,” said Pauw. “It’s a brand that has recognition all over the world and it’s a statement for women’s sport, not only women’s football.

“We are aware we have not qualified yet for a finals tournament. You trust the potential of these fantastic players and I can only say we will do our part to support you in any way.”

Considering Ireland under Pauw have lost seven matches on the trot, she and Hill were asked if the upcoming campaign, starting at home to Sweden on October 21st, should be viewed as preparation to qualify for the Euros in 2025.

“It is about the next event,” Pauw responded. “We will do everything in our power to qualify.”

Hill: “It’s no different for Vera or any of our international teams, be it senior teams or underage teams, every game we play we want to win.

“That is a very simple sporting objective, and it hasn’t changed this week or last week, and won’t change as we move forward.”

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND WOMEN’S SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Grace Moloney (Reading), Courtney Brosnan (Everton), Eve Badana (DLR Waves)

Defenders: Harriet Scott (Birmingham City), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Diane Caldwell (North Carolina Courage), Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Claire Walsh (Glasgow City), Savannah McCarthy (Galway WFC), Áine O’Gorman (Peamount United), Éabha O’Mahony (Boston College)

Midfielders: Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion), Jamie Finn (Birmingham City), Ruesha Littlejohn (Aston Villa), Ciara Grant (Shelbourne), Niamh Farrelly (Glasgow City), Roma McLaughlin (Central Connecticut State University), Jess Ziu (Shelbourne), Katie McCabe (Arsenal)

Forwards: Heather Payne (Florida State University), Rianna Jarrett (London City Lionesses), Amber Barrett (FC Koln), Kyra Carusa (HB Hoge), Clare Shine (Glasgow City), Emily Whelan (Birmingham City), Saoirse Noonan (Shelbourne).

International Friendly: Republic of Ireland v Australia, Tallaght Stadium, Tuesday, September 21st, 7.0 – Live on RTÉ2

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