'Number of legacy issues' remain in FAI, new chief executive Jonathan Hill admits

The pandemic certainly hasn’t helped but the fact the Ireland national team is still without a sponsor illustrates the scale of his task
'Number of legacy issues' remain in FAI, new chief executive Jonathan Hill admits

FAI Chief Executive Jonathan Hill during a Republic of Ireland training session at Wembley Stadium in London last year. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

New FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill admits he’s still addressing a number of legacy issues from the previous regime.

Covid-19 travel restrictions have kept the former English FA and Wembley Stadium commercial director working remotely in London since his appointment in November but the spectre of his predecessor’s era remains an issue.

While John Delaney is currently battling in the courts about access to files by the state watchdog, Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), Hill is doing his utmost to turn a new leaf for Irish football.

The pandemic certainly hasn’t helped but the fact the Ireland national team is still without a sponsor illustrates the scale of his task.

Admitting he’s read only a bit of the book devoted to Delaney’s 15-year term, Champagne Football, Hill explained his thinking today at his first press conference since replacing the Waterford native.

“I have read excerpts of the book and it would be foolish to say it’s not important to understand the past in order to help frame the future,” he said.

“There’s a number of legacy issues in the book; some of that I’ve had to deal with moving forward.

“I’m focused on the future because what more can I do? The staff, board and stakeholders want to see my vision to form a modern sports association, moving forward.”

One of those fallouts is the employment status of Robbie Keane.

Ireland’s record goalscorer was left in limbo last April when Stephen Kenny opted to discard him as part of the succession plan with Mick McCarthy. Kenny was free to select his own coaching staff despite Delaney and his board handing Keane a four-year contract which overlapped the two bosses. The 40-year-old continues to be paid a handsome salary for sitting at home in Malahide.

“Robbie is an FAI employee but I’ve not had a chance to sit down with him,” he said.

“I will do that. Robbie is a legend in Irish football; I look forward to honest conversation with him and I hope he is open to that. I’m open to all possibilities and Robbie will tell me where he is currently.”

Another issue to land on his desk was Damien Duff’s shock departure from Kenny’s coaching staff in November. It is known that the two-time Premier League winner was peeved at the FAI’s decision to investigate the Wembleygate incident following the 3-0 defeat to England in November but his reasons for his exit are more complex.

Duff hinted as much when refusing to elaborate during a recent television appearance.

“I had a long, open and honest discussion with Damien about a range of issues.

“That was very instructive for me. One thing I can say is that he reminded me of his passion for Irish football and Irish international football. He is extremely supportive of Stephen and the team for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers and there will be nobody prouder if we qualify.

“Do I want to harness that passion? Yes. We said that we’d keep talking about big issues.”

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