Fran Gavin: FAI ‘rocked’ and staff ‘rattled’ by crisis

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson, Unite regional secretary Jackie Pollock, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, and FAI director of competitions Fran Gavin at the launch of the cross-border Unite The Union Champions Cup in Malahide. Picture: Ryan Byrne

The FAI’s director of competitions Fran Gavin has said that staff have been “rattled” and the association “rocked” by the crisis in Abbotstown.

Speaking after yesterday’s launch of the cross-border Unite The Union Champions Cup in Malahide, Gavin, whose main responsibility is the League of Ireland, also made a point of highlighting the “good work” which he says continues to be done by the organisation and he added that he remains proud to work for the FAI.

“I think the FAI is going to go through a huge transition in the next two years,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of good work being done in the FAI that seems to be overshadowed by what’s going on. 

"I know a lot of the staff continue to do that work. I know my own staff are doing it. That work has to be done to keep Irish football going and they do a really, really good job. 

"That’s gone unnoticed a bit, because the attention has gone elsewhere.

“I’m still proud to be working for the FAI, absolutely, and always will be. 

"All the staff that I talk to at the moment are a bit, I suppose, rattled with what’s happened over the last while. 

You’ve got to take into consideration that the FAI has been a steady ship for a long time and suddenly the ship has been rocked, so people in any business would be concerned, and I know the board are working hard with the governance group to try and sort out all those things.

League of Ireland legend Pat Fenlon, now Linfield general manager, said that nothing less than wholesale reform of the FAI is what is required, but he stressed that, while he understands the clamour for change, he feels the process ought not to be rushed.

“We want change quickly, but the structures of the association have to be different from what they have been for a long period of time,” he said. 

“Eventually, it will go back to where it was previously if we don’t have serious change in there. That has to be looked at and then take our time as to how it happens and develops.

“We have seen these things and heard all these things, but then seen them buried. It has all come home to roost now, I suppose, so the end of it will take a little bit of time to solve, and how that happens, I’m not too sure, but the association needs a complete restructuring.”

Fenlon also said he hoped that, in time, a stronger League of Ireland would emerge as part of the response to the current crisis.

It’s sometimes lost, but there have been good things that have happened over the years with the association, but there has been no input or desire to make the League of Ireland any better.

"That’s the one thing, I hope, that comes out of this and that in four or five years’ time we are going on about a full-time, vibrant league.

“I have probably taken stick from people for trying to make things better and full time, things that are second nature across the world in football circles. 

"There is nobody who can tell me that this cannot happen here with the wealth and prosperity that we have in the country. 

"It does not take a lot of money to try to get the league into a position where there is employment for people. The big thing is that there is no industry here for the game.”

The inaugural Unite The Union Champions Cup will be contested by reigning champions Linfield and the winners of this season’s SSE Airtricity League Premier Division. 

The first leg will take place at Windsor Park on November 8, followed by the second leg on November 11 at the home of the 2019 League of Ireland champions.

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