Ex-Ireland international Niall Quinn has insisted the complete removal of the FAI board is “not a silver bullet” and that more changes are needed before the soccer body is fully reformed.
Mr Quinn, who played 92 times for Ireland, scoring 21 goals, issued the call to arms as he demanded officials follow in the footsteps of the Olympic Council of Ireland’s post-Rio Olympics ticket scandal reforms, amid growing speculation over his potential future role in a revamped organisation.
Speaking to reporters at a Leinster House event which took place less than 200 yards from the Oireachtas sports committee’s meeting with Sport Ireland, Mr Quinn described the FAI board removal as a “green light” for change.
However, the former footballer — who, since starring in Jack Charlton and Mick McCarthy’s teams, has gained a strong business reputation, due to his previous role as Sunderland chairman — said the board announcement itself is “not a silver bullet” unless other reforms take place.
“The narrative now must change to rebuilding trust for all of the stakeholders,” said Mr Quinn.
"That represents an opportunity for things to happen, but there are some real hard yards ahead of the new group that goes in to represent football in a new, more modern and transparent way.
“Like any great organisation or business that has to reboot itself and reignite itself, it’s going to take time.
“It’s going to take brilliant people, dynamic people, but again it needs the League of Ireland and the professional game at the very top of the agenda, and everything else can pyramid down below that, and we can remove the fragmented set-up and structures of football in this country.”
Mr Quinn, who played club football for Arsenal, Manchester City, and Sunderland, said that among the changes he believes are necessary are a name change of the FAI, following in the wake of the Olympic Council of Ireland changing its name to the Olympic Federation of Ireland after the 2016 Pat Hickey affair.
He said he “threw it [the name change] out there, because the Olympic Federation has just come into a really good place”, and he said it is a good example of how reforms can become embedded, saying: “The Government is happy, the trust has been rebuilt. What did they do? That is the only reason I looked at it and I was looking at how it has gone so well for them.
“They had a chief executive who kept their head under water, wasn’t a celebrity and did some brilliant work.
Amid ongoing speculation over his potential role in any revamped organisation, Mr Quinn said the priority should be on governance and structural reforms instead of appointing a “celebrity” to a senior position.
However, he confirmed he would be happy to assist and “consult” with anyone who is genuinely seeking root-and-branch changes to the organisation, insisting now is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for football in Ireland.
Mr Quinn made his comments at a Leinster House briefing titled ‘The Future of Irish Football’, which was organised by Labour senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.
His call for changes mirror those of Shane Ross, the Minister for Sport, who yesterday told the Oireachtas sports committee he wants to see supporters, male and female players, and grassroot members placed on any new board as part of a major restructuring of the FAI.