Niall Quinn wants sporting bodies to work together to ‘improve everybody’s lot’

FAI interim deputy CEO understands frustration of Basketball Ireland over Government funding

 FAI interim deputy chief executive Niall Quinn during the launch of the 2020 SSE Airtricity League season at the Sport Ireland National Indoor Arena in Dublin. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

FAI interim deputy chief executive Niall Quinn during the launch of the 2020 SSE Airtricity League season at the Sport Ireland National Indoor Arena in Dublin. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

 

Niall Quinn says that he understands the frustration expressed by Basketball Ireland over the very different treatment the two sports received from the Government when facing a financial crisis, but the recently installed interim deputy CEO of the FAI said that all sports organisations need to work together in order to make a better case for public funding.

“We don’t want to go into rivalry with other sports,” Quinn said at the launch of the new Airtricity League season in Abbotstown. “Basketball Ireland are unhappy and I understand that but I want us to be part of something with Basketball Ireland where we all go to Government and show how important sport is and that basketball get their funding, that we get far more funding.

“When the Basketball one came up, the troika was in town, the country was on its knees. I have huge sympathy for them, my two nieces played for Ireland at that time and it was really tough. But it’s a different landscape now and rather than saying, ‘you got this’ or, ‘look, we didn’t get that,’ . . . let’s get together and improve everybody’s lot in sport.”

“Connacht rugby got €20 million. I’m delighted for them. And I’d love to know how they did it. Because I would love to know what best practice is so that we can get the money we need for our stadia.”

In the case of football there remains a strong argument, he believes, for substantially growing levels of public support of the game but, more immediately, he declared: “I will remonstrate with anyone who gives out about the amount of money that we got because we are giving €30 million minimum back to the exchequer in four months’ time.”

In relation to the way the development of young Irish players might be impacted by Brexit and, as things stand, the inability from the start of next year of Premier League clubs to sign 16- or 17-year-olds, Quinn said that he sees the situation as an opportunity and has no sense now that the association will ask Fifa to make an exception to its rules on the basis the particular freedom of movement that exists between Britain and Ireland.

“Personally, I haven’t spoken to people about that [the idea of asking for the exemption], but I want to see any young person that goes from here to England to play football, go with an education,” he said. “I didn’t and I was robbed in some ways of my education. I was in sixth year when I left, I could have stayed but I didn’t and I always feel robbed by that, although I will get back and do it one day.

“I’ve seen too much heartache in the meantime in terms of young players going over without an education and coming back. Some stay playing League of Ireland and football remains a staple in their lives but I’ve also seen people so annoyed with the game and the problems that it has caused them. I would welcome a lift in the age to 18 of any player who goes over to play in England.”

Either way, he continued, the impact of Brexit needs to be prepared for and Britain’s departure from the EU can be turned into a positive for the game here and, in particular, for those who aspire to playing it at the highest level.

“The obvious thing is that we need to put in place a structure for our elite young player that doesn’t just help them with their football but helps them with their education, so that if we are holding onto them longer then we are sending over qualified young men, a bit like the Danish teams do and the Swedish teams do. We used to buy players when I was at Sunderland and they would tell me about the degrees that they had.

“We are a long way behind in some ways but do you know what has been great in the last year or two, we have been showing that we are capable of delivering footballers.”

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