Kerr calls on Government to get behind the 'new' FAI
Former Ireland boss impressed by the efforts of voluntary directors to save troubled association
Former Ireland manager Brian Kerr has spoken out in support of the new directors of the FAI after what has been another bruising week for the association.
A six-man delegation of Paul Cooke, David Moran, Joe O'Brien, Dick Shakespeare, John Finnegan and Martin Hegarty met with Sports Minister Shane Ross at Leinster House last week in a bid to secure financial support for the organisation as mounting debts threaten its very future.
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However, despite the meeting initially being described by temporary Executive Lead Paul Cooke as "constructive", the decision by the FAI board not to attend last Wednesday's Oireachtas Committee was widely criticised.
Sport Ireland and Minister Ross both attended in the FAI's absence and Ross's revelation that the association had requested an €18m bailout resulted in an accusation from the FAI that confidentialities had been broken.
Kerr had been a strident critic of the previous management within the association but, speaking exclusively to Independent.ie, said that he believed the new directors in place had the best interests of the game at heart and deserve support.
"I was banging the drum about the leadership of the FAI and there weren't too many people rowing in behind me. A lot of people were celebrating when we qualified for competitions and rightly so," he said.
"But they enjoyed it and went along with the ride when underneath it all I always felt there was something rotten there and that the leadership was not good enough. I'm not delighted to be proved right in this situation but I do think it can be rescued.
"I'm happy to know that there are very good people trying to do some positive things that will improve the situation.
"It's Christmas and there's so many people's wages at stake and futures at stake. Their livelihoods are at stake and that's one of the biggest tragedies of this, if not the biggest.
"You have to remember that these (new board members) are volunteers and they have to be complimented on making a decent effort at it. I think there's too much loose talk from politicians in terms of using words like 'basketcase' and saying that asking for €18m was out of control.
"Irish football deserves support now from politicians and from government. Irish football makes a massive contribution to the well-being of the Irish people.
"Not just when success with the international teams is happening but also through the activities on a daily basis. The work that goes on with teams of lads and girls playing football.
"The enjoyment and the discipline that goes with that and the life skills that they learn from the coaches at the lowest levels will stand with them. That's a huge input in Ireland's social fabric and Ireland's well-being."
But while Kerr is broadly supportive of the new blood that has moved into positions of influence, he's also adamant that those who were involved in the previous set-up have to move on.
With SFAI board member John Earley stepping aside earlier this month, the remnants of the previous board are now down to one individual in President Donal Conway, who plans to stand down at an EGM on January 25.
However, Kerr believes that other non-board members in senior positions, or who enabled the previous board, also have to step aside before the game can move on.
“Huge mistakes have been made, dreadful mistakes,” he said. “That has to be looked into and investigated and those who contributed to it have got to be looked at carefully as well. Why did so many sit on their hands and allow the things that happened to happen?”
“It needs an overhaul, it needs leadership, it needs a clean-out of the people who implemented the culture that’s been in the FAI over the last number of years where so many good people were lost from the game, were abandoned and disenfranchised. People who made a difference with their vision of how the game should be organised, how people should be treated and how teams should be coached.
“There’s an opportunity now to implement a new culture that the commercial world, the business world, the political world and the ordinary public in Ireland can look at and say, ‘they look like they’re doing their job well, they look like they know what they’re at’.
“And then get on with it without fanfare, without looking for too much glory. Just get on and do the job.
“There’s the potential to do that now I think, but in the short term the current directors need a leg-up badly and I think there is a way that a leg-up can be found without any embarrassment for anyone.”