Sunday 26 May 2019

Niall Quinn to meet with FAI over League of Ireland plan when 'time is right'

Quinn's idea is to construct academies that would offer young pros full-time training here, with the guaranteed fall-back of full-time education so they have a firm Plan B. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Quinn's idea is to construct academies that would offer young pros full-time training here, with the guaranteed fall-back of full-time education so they have a firm Plan B. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Niall Quinn says that a representative of the FAI has told him they will meet about his proposal for a new direction for the League of Ireland when 'the time is right.'

And the Dubliner has admitted that the investment level required for his plans will exceed the figure of €40m that was previously mentioned.

He is positive that his vision can be achieved courtesy of a steering group of interesting parties he is working with - they plan to put a firm proposal together inside six months.

That group consists of businessmen, prospective sponsors, and individuals with expertise in sporting industries at home and abroad. Politicians and representatives of academic institutions are also part of his consultation process.

Quinn's plans is for an independent league with academies funded by a combination of private investment and government support.

The prospect of a full-time education to go with football is an angle they will be pushing to seek state investment - as well as the creation of an industry that will provide employment.

The former Sunderland striker wants to use the construction of the A League and the MLS as a model, even if the population numbers involve mean a smaller version of those examples. A member of his team has been strongly involved in the development of football in America.

Ultimately, they will need to bring the idea to the FAI for their approval - with Quinn favouring that senior football takes control of its own destiny.

"I haven't (had any dealings with FAI)" says Quinn. "I would know somebody in there - not John (Delaney) who said, 'Yeah, we'll meet when it's right.' And I said ok.

"This is not an anti-FAI thing. It's about finding people who never before showed themselves as football people who wanted to get into conversations to make the thing better.

"All we want to do is bring a new plan and give it to the correct players who can make their minds up on whether it's right or not.

"The great thing is that the people who we've got together have had a good close look, independently, at a level that's never been done before.

The 52-year-old conceded that the MLS and A League models essentially created a new history for football in a country, and acknowledged that some experts might see a future where a smaller number of clubs is essential for any rebrand to work.

Yet he suggested that was all for open to debate, and asserted that he is prepared to listen to the recommendations of members of his group who have excelled in other areas.

"It's a big ask to think of all the clubs owning it (league) themselves and having a big office in Dublin, and branching out like the Premier League did in England," he continued.

"But when you're dealing with people who have done it continuously with their businesses, who have never showed themselves before as League of Ireland supporters, then you start to think why couldn't it happen? If you build up positivity and momentum, markets change. People's perception changes.

 "I'm going to try and upgrade this conversation in a month or so. These guys (on the group) have given up time and have got people in the companies they own giving time over to help with all of this.

"Two companies came together and offered the services of staff members to do the work, pro bono, to get this to where we need to be. To find out what we can about other countries, what worked and what didn't work

"It will always come down to the commercials. The government will only give us money if we prove there's a commercial viability. It's not my field, that's the field of people who have come together.

"Understanding what needs to happen is one thing; understanding how much it's going to cost is another."

A figure of €40m was quoted last month which was based around the concept of each of the 20 League of Ireland clubs receiving an academy. Quinn was also drawing that estimate from the use of an existing Immigration Investor Programme which could be tweaked for football purposes to allow overseas born players come into Ireland.

However, he has acknowledged that the real cost of a revamp would exceed that and knows that private funds would have to raised to match any commitment from state bodies.

"€40m only touches what’s needed for a whole revamp," he said.  "I’m not saying the government need to pay all that. Private money will come if its investable.

"We’ve got a lot of expertise, people who’ve done this in other jurisdictions. People who understand the costs, who know how to present this to government. When they do show themselves, you’ll see a quality group of people who are united to do the right thing

"I will back out of this very soon because there are more clever people me who can bring that story to life.

"They’ll come and talk hopefully after the next batch of work is done on it."

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