Niall Quinn has described his recent meeting with League of Ireland Director Fran Gavin as “very positive” but insisted that the FAI need to be open to alternative ideas about the future shape of the domestic game.
Former Ireland international Quinn has been canvassing support for plans for a standalone league underpinned by a mix of government and privately-funded academies which, with an associated educational dimension, would have the goal of enhancing both player and personal development and the domestic game as a whole.
Speaking yesterday in Dublin he suggested the FAI’s expanded underage national league structure doesn’t go far enough in offering a viable alternative to young players going prematurely to England. “I wouldn’t abandon it but it needs money and it needs more,” he said. “It needs an add-on to players when they start to hit 15 or 16 and they’re being looked at, to say, ‘okay if you stay with us, you are guaranteed two more years’ football and you’re guaranteed an education after the Leaving Cert. So even if you don’t make it in football, you’ve got assistance in three years of education afterwards’.
I would say once a month I get parents ringing up saying, ‘Could I meet you? My son has been offered a contract at Tranmere or Southend’ or whoever. Look, it’s very hard to say no to him because he will always think ‘what if I had gone’ but it’s easier to say no if there is something more structured in place here as an alternative.
On his meeting with Fran Gavin, Quinn said: “I thought it was very positive. I wasn’t trying to do a hatchet job on the FAI. My point to Fran was, as long as the players have that escape route, it will be seized upon by scouts. As long as the viable alternative isn’t there you are asking hard-pressed clubs to invest more in putting these teams together. That’s where I felt that the government, and education, could help.”
Quinn’s proposals are being aired against the backdrop of ongoing discussions between the FAI and the clubs with a view to the latter taking a decisive role in the running of the league from 2020.
“There is half the debate going on anyway with the FAI ceding ownership rights to the clubs,” he acknowledged. “That means there is movement to a new place, wherever that new place is. The FAI have a viewpoint but it’s up to the clubs to have their own independent viewpoint. The clubs will have to buy into a plan that everyone’s happy with and I don’t see how the association owning the plan will work at this point.
“But I do think they have a role to play and nothing will go near government if it doesn’t go through the FAI. They will always call the shots if it comes to government assistance.”
Meanwhile, former Ireland manager Brian Kerr has criticised the fact the FAI’s launch of the new League of Ireland season is only taking place today, just a couple of days before the big kick off.
“Why would you be having the launch of the league only now, with the league starting on Friday, give me the logic of that,” he said. “For the managers and players, there’s an intensity about this week with training and preparation. As well as that, the Champions League restarts and Manchester United are playing so what sort of coverage will there be (of the launch)? Why pick this day? Why not last week or the week before when there wasn’t much going on?”