Niall Quinn: A successful League of Ireland lifts whole game

But while that has left some other voices in the game worrying that their constituencies could be left behind, the FAI’s new Interim Deputy CEO insists they have nothing to fear.

Niall Quinn: A successful League of Ireland lifts whole game

Niall Quinn believes that all sections of Irish football would benefit from a successful League of Ireland.

One of the key conditions of the government’s rescue deal for the FAI is that the Association develops a five-year strategy for both the senior men’s and women’s national leagues, involving a commitment to appropriate funding and other resources in recognition of “their national importance to the development of Irish football.”

But while that has left some other voices in the game worrying that their constituencies could be left behind, the FAI’s new Interim Deputy CEO insists they have nothing to fear.

“We believe an elite League of Ireland in rip-roaring shape lifts the whole game with it,” said Quinn, speaking at the SSE Airtricity League media launch for the 2020 season.

“It’s obvious, look at any other country in the world. There should be no fear from grassroots, no fear from amateur football and particularly no fear from women’s football because we have actually ring-fenced money that women’s football never had before.

And I believe we are so close at senior level to the elite of women’s football that we can foresee a time where women’s football could really start to trip the light fandango in where it can go.

“In terms of Football for All, the amateur game, grassroots; we’ve looked at reports from other countries and the rest of the game rises and standards rise because the top of the game they aspire to is in better shape. That’s the five-year plan.”

As an initial step to develop the league, Quinn revealed that the FAI will be establishing an office to help clubs with grant applications.

“We’re charged over the next five years to help clubs improve their facilities. Straight away I can tell you that we will be putting an office together to equip clubs better in applying for capital grants etc. We were all pretty despondent about the recent public funding announcements pre-election where we only had two applications in the world of Irish football.

We should have had every club that needed upgrading in their facilities going in with a fabulous bid at that moment in time.

“So we’re charged with doing that and we’ll pay for that so that clubs can take the burden of getting a good bid document together for future bidding processes. So there’s a start and there will be more stuff to follow that.

“The way I would put it now is that the new-look FAI is an enabler for the League of Ireland, not a blocker. The clubs have had a raw deal.

"I hope they feel they have a friend in court, and they will certainly have three friends in court in (Interim CEO) Gary Owens, (Independent Chairman) Roy Barrett and myself. And how we go about proving that to the clubs is we have to do it by actions.

Now we can’t turn water into wine but what we can do is show shifts in where we feel the FAI should be funding.

On the subject of an All-Island League, Quinn said that if support emerges both North and South for the proposal, the FAI would act as “as an enabler to make it happen”. But, if it isn’t to be, they would be happy putting “all our energy” into the League of Ireland.

Asked if he has considered the potential implications of a cross-border league for the respective national teams, the former international replied:“I haven’t put any work into that, the league is the bit that’s out there now and how a construction of that might look.

“But, again, if there’s any questions to do with that I’d rather have that conversation with our counterparts up north to make sure we don’t just jump ahead of them.

"But I’m a footballer and I love when our country are playing matches and winning. If there was a way that both sides could get together and chat about that, my door is wide open. I’d love to.”

Much more immediately, there is the pressing question of the uncertainty still surrounding the make-up of this season’s First Division, with two provisional fixture lists on the table to accommodate the possibility of a Limerick team getting a licence, as well as ongoing opposition to the presence of a Shamrock Rovers B team in the second tier.

While the rules would permit the inclusion in the B team of three outfield players and a goalkeeper from the first team, one compromise proposal apparently being floated is that Rovers would effectively field an U21 team as their First Division side.

Aidan Price, the Rovers B team coach said yesterday:

I can guarantee that the average age of our team every week will be 18 or 19. They won’t get that experience with the first team as it’s so strong.

“We’re happy that the clubs are in consultation,” was all Niall Quinn would say yesterday.

“We’re not in the middle telling people what to do. We’re trying to facilitate an outcome there that allows football to start when it’s meant to start.

“If we can avoid any more confrontation on it, great, but if there is, we’re here to support and mediate if possible. But it’s up to them now to come back to us.

“Hopefully it will be done soon. All the clubs just want to get out and play.

“I know that. I hope this issue can be resolved amicably between them. And I believe they’re trying to do that.”

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