Sport Soccer

Sunday 25 August 2019

Niall Quinn backs proposals to 'bring trust back' to FAI as he outlines his vision for revamped League of Ireland

Niall Quinn brings forward his proposals for changes in Irish soccer. Picture: Sportsfile
Niall Quinn brings forward his proposals for changes in Irish soccer. Picture: Sportsfile
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Former Republic of Ireland striker Niall Quinn has outlined his vision for the future of the Irish game, as his group seek to play a role in a new-look League of Ireland set-up.

Quinn's Football in Ireland Visionary Group are backing the reform proposals currently being recommended by the Governance Review Group set up by the Football Association of Ireland and Sport Ireland and he is hoping his consortium of businessmen and former players will get a chance to play a role in the future of the game.

Quinn and his group, including US-based businessman Kieran Foley, feel they can facilitate an investment programme of €2million for each club to develop an academy to rival UK clubs. His vision has been welcomed by government officials, including Minister for Sport, Shane Ross.

Meanwhile, Kieran Lucid, a tech entrepreneur from Co Kerry, has a rival consortium that includes plans for a cross-border league with a top flight featuring 14-team, with two tiers of 10 teams below that.

In an interview with the FAI, Quinn outlined his vision of a bright future for the game in this country, after he held talks with League of Ireland club officials. 

"Our group had a chance to put some misconceptions that were out there to bed and speak directly with the clubs about who we are, what our skill sets are and why we are there," stated Quinn.

"We will only be there should the want us as a resource to drive for better things and for a change that I think the league is crying out for.

"I was delighted to get that chance because if you try to do things in the press or try and stay quiet about things, it maybe leads to some misunderstandings.

It was very, very good to get the club together and also hear about their pain, their worries and their fears. There is a feeling now that Irish football and in particular the league is going one way and that's up.

"We have a lot of people who have done very, very well in the game in our group and we'd like to put something back. We have people in our group who have turned small business into €100m-plus businesses right the way through to Stephanie Roche (below), who has a real passion to make sure women's football is every inch part of this journey.

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International footballer Stephanie Roche. Photo: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

"We can see that the clubs have the ambition to go there. We are not there to take something from them and we are there to enhance what they have.

"How we can do that is by being part of an FAI independence board if that is what comes out of the proposal. We are still shooting in the dark a little bit, but we are here to help.

"Our message to the clubs was that it is your league and we want to be a resource with good skill sets that could bring it somewhere, but we would need some sort of remit of power to do that."

Quinn believes the winds of change sweeping through the FAI tie a chance for the game's governing body in Ireland to restore some credibility, after a turbulent 12 months that has seen a host of high profile scandals rock the association.

"The FAI proposals gives the green light to some trust and credibility coming back into the whole process," added Quinn.

"The next few weeks is deciding whether football kicks on in an upward trajectory with good people in place and trust and belief in the system, or do we want to see it held back. If the proposals are not brought through, I would be afraid of where Irish football goes next.

"We are not doing this for commercial gain. Someone like myself and Stephanie want to give something back to the game. I had a professional life overseas and that all happened (from playing) with Manortown United.

"I have never really repaid them properly and the best thing I can do to pay back would be to be part of a group that could make a great change at this opportunistic time. I think the clubs have got the message that we are a resource and not a group coming in telling them what to do.

"We need to allow the government to feel better and more trustworthy about releasing funding (for soccer). The government needs to know that there is something excellent happening now and we have to prove ourselves now."

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