It’s approaching the 20th anniversary of Brian Kerr doing Irish football a massive favour by applying for the vacancy of Ireland Youth team manager. On Monday night, he delivered further national service when bringing his former employers to task.
Fran Gavin’s attempt to diffuse the rumblings surrounding the association’s handling of the League of Ireland in appearing on RTÉ’s Soccer Republic programme spectacularly backfired.
His very title and the midnight air-time of the broadcast were two unintended examples of how the sorry mess that is the FAI’s stewardship of the domestic game has magnified over the past week.
No longer is Gavin just League Director, his brief having expanded to the Competitions Director encompassing a myriad of additional tasks.
Worse still, since Noel Mooney departed for Uefa in 2011, there’s been no dedicated Marketing and Promotions manager at a time both disciplines are in dire need.
St Patrick’s Athletic, the club Kerr guided to a pair of league titles in the 1990s before joining the FAI, believe the League of Ireland is in crisis.
Other members of the 20-strong Premier Club Association (PCA) may share that view in private today when they convene for a summit, yet how many of them emulate the Saints and Derry by decrying the state of disrepair is another matter altogether.
Various managers critical of the game, whether it be the culled prize-money pot, infrastructure or even playing surfaces have found themselves hauled before disciplinary hearings. Roddy Collins, manager of financially-stricken Waterford United, was hit with a four-figure fine earlier this season.
Garrett Kelleher, owner of St Pat’s, has made his stance on the current predicament clear through the issuing of two sternly-worded statements over the weekend. The questioning by Kerr of Gavin live on air touched upon many of the concerns raised by his former club.
While the vexed issue of the FAI’s €5,000-per-club in strategic planning funding brought matters to a head, it seems a catalogue of others had been festering in the background.
“The frustrations levels across the league are remarkable,” thundered Kerr.
“I speak to managers every day.
“The frustration levels within the supporters around the facilities, the lack of facilities for women and the pitches are there. The dressing rooms are desperate.
“All around the country there are ferociously bad facilities and there is nothing being done about it for years and years.
“Talking about strategic planning now for five years’ time is a load of bunkum.
“The €100,000 for all the clubs is a pittance in terms of the money the FAI are getting in.
“Where is the leadership in the FAI in relation to the league?”
That the leader of the organisation governing football, chief executive John Delaney, branded the League a “difficult child” last year served only to deepen scepticism amongst the fraternity.
Kerr credits the “genius” of manager Stephen Kenny and his players for Dundalk’s success in Europe, rather than any dividend from the FAI’s attempts to create an environment for professionalism.
It was therefore inevitable he would react when Gavin claimed the association introduced “an atmosphere to allow the likes of Shamrock Rovers get into the group stages of the Europa League (in 2011)”.
Kerr interjected: “You created that atmosphere? The clubs and the manager created the atmosphere, with respect.”
The quarrel between Kerr and former players union supremo Gavin was believed to have continued in studio once the cameras stopped but healthy debate shouldn’t be discouraged given the pivotal juncture approaching for the League of Ireland.
Later this year, clubs must vote on whether to renew their partnership with the FAI.
Almost 10 years have passed since the accord initially struck, a period in which the mothership began by delivering on their marketing and prize-money commitments.
The FAI were able to trumpet both when the first renegotiation occurred in 2011, yet like the “primetime” highlights slots they had back then, all elements have since plummeted downhill.
Senior Counsel Michael Cush has been sent in to bat this time on behalf of the clubs and, according to St Pat’s at least, extracting financial details from the FAI’s vaults is proving an arduous task.
Without being aware of how much the governing body generate and spend on the sector, the 20 clubs are operating in the dark when it comes to making a decision on the future direction.
For those passionate about the League, like Kerr, that’s the least they deserve.
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