Niall Quinn happy to step into the breach at FAI

New deputy chief executive hoping to help plot new way forward for association

Niall Quinn: “I am led to believe that there is an assistance in place from the banks, Uefa and the Government that will allow the game to move forward.” Photograph: Ciaran Culligan/Inpho

Niall Quinn: “I am led to believe that there is an assistance in place from the banks, Uefa and the Government that will allow the game to move forward.” Photograph: Ciaran Culligan/Inpho

 

Niall Quinn is set to meet with FAI staff on Monday when he intends to reassure them that the financial outlook for the stricken association is “not as bleak” as has been suggested, he says.

With a deal between Bank of Ireland, Uefa and the Government aimed at securing the organisation’s position for the coming years widely expected to be announced over the coming days, Quinn will be addressing workers out at Abbotstown in his new role as deputy chief executive.

The FAI confirmed that the 53-year-old was taking on the role on Thursday. There is no clear timeframe set out in terms of how long he will occupy the position but the suggestion is that it will be until a permanent chief executive is appointed and the sense is that appointment may be still six months or more away.

It has not been revealed what the salary for the new position is to be but, having previously suggested that he would do the job for free, he says he has been persuaded the job should come with a wage attached but that it is “a fraction,” of what was previously paid and that he will initially defer it before deciding whether to accept it or not.

According to the association, Quinn’s role will be a fairly sprawling one with the Dubliner set to have a hand in developing a brighter future for the League of Ireland, helping to improve “player pathways” working with the grassroots of the game and rebuilding relationships with stakeholders, including Government and the media.

“It is for a short period of time, we believe,” said Quinn of his appointment. “But in that period of time it is very important that a strategy is developed . . . so that whoever comes afterwards and whenever they come, that they are not starting all over again.

“I hope it is announced very soon,” he continued, “but I am led to believe that there is an assistance in place from the banks, Uefa and the Government that will allow the game to move forward.

“It is a difficult time for staff I know but I will hopefully be meeting up with everyone on Monday and trying to instil a bit more confidence in the system that is not as bleak as some of the pictures that have been painted; that there is a growth pattern there envisaged for us all to be part of. Right now it’s still at the stage where we are not sure where we are going but we would ask that they understand that a lot is being done to ease the pain.”

Key positions

Although Sarah O’Shea did hold the title for a couple of years until she left the association at the end of 2015, the role Quinn is taking on has a far greater emphasis on PR and is essentially being created for him.

His arrival out at Abbotstown follows the appointment to key positions at the association of Goodbody chief executive Roy Barrett and former Athletics Ireland chief executive Gary Owens, both of whom were prominent members of the “visionary group” that Quinn assembled after having spoken out in support of reform at the FAI 15 months ago.

The group’s push for change at the top end of the organisation appeared to have been overtaken by events in March of last year when former chief executive John Delaney’s position was fatally undermined but its leading lights now hold positions although, Quinn has admitted, there will not yet be the money to implement its original aims.

As was the case with Barrett a couple of weeks back, in any case, Quinn’s appointment has been well received with Minister for Sport Shane Ross, who described it as “great news for Irish football”, and Minister of State Brendan Griffin both warmly welcoming it and the star power that the former international brings to the association should prove to be a significant asset when it comes to persuading the next government to provide greater support to the game.

“I think it deserves a little bit more than €2.9 million a year,” said Quinn on Thursday. There are already firm suggestions that the Government is prepared to almost double that figure but the association will be hoping that with a genuine debate about the value of the game to the country now started, its new public leadership can push on from there.

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