FAI unity, fears for Bulgaria games, and Covid issues
Conflicting stances of Quinn and Kerr highlight tough search for common ground
IT WAS a striking contrast to kick off another significant week for Irish football. Just a few minutes after Niall Quinn expressed the hope that a “thing called unity” might show its face, Brian Kerr sat in the same seat offering an alternative view of the power struggle at the top of our game. Disagreement is no bad thing if there’s a constructive discussion and this is the balance that has be found in the coming days. Quinn will be in Abbotstown tomorrow for a press conference which he says will reveal “stuff that the game needs to know about” and outline what the current hierarchy are “set up to do and strive to do”.
The unrest in what some term as the ‘football family’ has centred from a move towards independent directors having 50 per cent representation at board level, a swift exit for veteran Council members and question marks around appointments such as Quinn’s arrival as deputy CEO next to Gary Owens and their closeness to independent chair Roy Barrett. It seems that the former Irish international is set to stay on beyond his initial six-month term.
Through recent turbulence, there has been a sense that leading decision-makers remain confident in their belief that they should drive on with their plans even if it knocks noses out of joint.
This view has been strengthened by support from Government and positive vibes from FIFA and UEFA that has left the so-called rebels in a tricky spot.
Proposed reforms include changes to the structure of the Council and there are plans related to youth and underage football, but it remains to be seen what is rolled out in a publicity drive before Friday’s emergency council meeting driven by member concerns. Quinn suggested the all-island league will also be on the agenda at Abbotstown.
“I’m not contracted but I will be around for the near future in terms of what’s required,” he said, before harking back to where things stood in January – the point where Barrett signed the contentious rescue deal with Government that upgraded the reforms voted through last year. Hence, the need for an EGM to agree to these amendments with the restoration of Government funding dependent on approval.
“The culture of football was in a terrible place, the brand was in a terrible place, and lots of people have lots of thoughts on that. We’ve had no football so you guys have had nothing else to write about except the mood and the fragmentation that exists. And, believe it or not, behind the scenes we were trying to do some good stuff.
“I’ve just tried to put in place the foundations for a better future for Irish football regardless of how votes go. I go back to that word, unity. We’re going to find it hard if there’s a splintering and a fracturing that’s even worse than it was.’’
Quinn won’t be amending his stance on the board structure, and has taken issue with commentary casting independent directors as outsiders, referencing an article which implied that he wasn’t a “football person”.
“I’ve been in the game 37 years, if I’m not a football person then I don’t know what I am,” he continued, before asserting that he “100 per cent” stands over the view that four independent board members and eight elected through football channels is flawed.
“Where the narrative slipped in the last few months has been an us and them. That’s not the case. There is nothing wrong in that ‘independence’ of having football people as independents, as long as they’re not conflicted.
“When the word ‘independents’ comes out it is not independence on the basis that these people were never at a football match in their lives. There needs to be skill-sets in every good modern organisation. Hopefully, we can see something more positive, from our side on Wednesday about what the future may look like. Hopefully we’ll come out of this with the right structure.”
Kerr was listening in the background as a Virgin Media event that was marking the return of European football veered into local concerns. He said he endorsed some decisions made by the current board, and praised the quality of the WatchLOI streaming service (Quinn says sales have gone better than expected but added that he wasn’t contractually in a position to divulge details).
But Kerr questioned the process of internal appointments which included Mark Scanlon’s as league director and had another stance on the board debate.
“It’s alright saying people shouldn’t be dismissed because they haven’t been a player or involved in football all their life. Equally, I would say just because you follow a team doesn’t mean you’re involved in football,” countered Kerr, with Quinn out of the room at this stage.
“I think getting the balance is very important. I’m not sure that they are going to get it right. The previous regime was disastrous. Roy Barrett was caught over a barrel in the January negotiations, dealing with Government and civil servants when they had nothing in the kitty and wages had to be paid.
“They had to concede something in those negotiations that would have been very difficult to concede. It might have been easier to concede if your background wasn’t in football, right. The board have made some bad decisions. They didn’t know enough about Irish football.
“They seem anxious to get experience, quality and a different perspective onto their board yet within the employees . . . they want to retain the positions for within. The recent jobs weren’t advertised outside and I don’t think anybody from outside was interviewed.
“There’s been a lot of talk about governance but I’m not sure about the protocol and governance around those decisions. They’ve got to fix some of that.”
The fix may not be a quick one.
The previous regime was disastrous. Roy Barrett was caught over a barrel in the January negotiations
Influential: Brian Kerr (right) and Niall Quinn at Virgin Media’s Festival of Football launch that, starting this week, will see 26 European games broadcast across 19 days
David Titov of St Patrick’s Athletic has his temperature taken on arrival at Richmond Park. Below: Supporters watch last night’s action from a balcony overlooking the pitch