Niall Quinn and Brian Kerr differ on role of outsiders in FAI

This week is shaping up to be pivotal for new FAI, starting with Tuesday’s press briefing

Brian Kerr isn’t as convinced as Niall Quinn that outsiders can be trusted by the FAI to navigate the challenges ahead. Photograph: Sportsfile

Brian Kerr isn’t as convinced as Niall Quinn that outsiders can be trusted by the FAI to navigate the challenges ahead. Photograph: Sportsfile

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Although doubts hang over his own continuation within the organisation, current interim deputy chief executive Niall Quinn is a firm believer that the Football Association of Ireland will benefit if proposals to expand the portion of independent directors in the boardroom are carried by members.

This week is shaping up to be a pivotal one for the new FAI, which Quinn is indelibly attached to, starting with a press briefing on Tuesday ahead of an emergency meeting of the full 79-member council on Friday.

At issue, primarily, is a move towards splitting the 12-person board equally between directors elected through football constituency and those nominated externally, with the independent chairman bestowed with the casting vote.

When the much-awaited inflow of independent directors following the John Delaney regime manifested in four places being created from the Governance Review Group (GRP), Quinn remained dubious, stating 12 months ago: “those numbers don’t stack up well if you want to go in and change things.”

It subsequently transpired he became embroiled in redressing the imbalance; himself and Gary Owens recruited as the top executives in the FAI within a fortnight of fellow Visionary Group member Roy Barrett arriving as the new independent chairman.

While the trio, along with two other external directors Catherine Guy and Liz Joyce, emerged from the Department of Sport enlivened by the financial rescue package, their joy wasn’t shared by the rest of the interim board immediately concerned for their own survival.

Council members, too, couldn’t bear to narrow their focus on the €19m worth of government funding on offer for reform without questioning the motivation for culling almost 30 of them in one fell sweep under another measure conceded without full knowledge of the board until the morning the now infamous Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Barrett.

Quinn, speaking on Monday at a Virgin Media event, denied that Tuesday’s string of announcements, one of which is believed to be the backing from Uefa for the new broom’s cause, is a pre-emptive strike before what is widely expected to be a lively gathering at the Red Cow Hotel.

Government ministers have already declared that a failure by the necessary two-thirds of delegates to ratify the MoU at an EGM later this month will damage Irish football.

“Who knows, maybe there will be a thing called unity that comes in and shows its face,” Quinn said with a hint of sarcasm.

“We’ve had no football for the last few months, so the media had nothing else to write about except the mood and the fragmentation that exists across the association. We’re going to find it hard if there’s a splintering and a fracturing that’s even worse than it was in the past.”

Reiterating his own stated stance on the boardroom reshuffle, the former Ireland striker said: “I still believe that 100 per cent. My view is that things had to change on the basis of the trouble that the association has got itself into.

“There is nothing wrong at having football people as independents, as long as they’re not conflicted. I read in certain articles that I’m not a football person. I’ve been in the game for 37 years so I don’t know where that leaves me.

“There needs to be skillsets in every good modern organisation. Allowing a bigger pool with greater skillsets is always the correct pathway to aim for.

“Where the narrative slipped in the last few months has been an ‘us and them’ situation. Hopefully we’ll come out of this with the right structure going forward.”

Fellow Virgin Media pundit Brian Kerr isn’t so convinced outsiders can be trusted to navigate the challenges ahead.

“The new board made some good decisions but bad ones too,” noted the former Ireland manager. “They’ve got to stop appointing people just from on the inside. They recently decided against interviewing any external candidates for the League of Ireland’s director position.

“There has been a lot of talk about governance but I’m not sure about the protocol and governance around those decisions. That needs to be fixed.”

Quinn indicated his spell inside the tent could be nearing an end, a scenario fuelled by the absence of a deputy chief executive in a restructure unveiled recently by Owens and the expiration of his temporary deal.

“I’m not currently contracted (to the FAI) but I will be around for the near future in terms of what’s required,” he clarified.

Quinn and Kerr were speaking at an event to promote Virgin Media’s Festival of Football, covering the Champions League and Europa League throughout the month of August.

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