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Government's hard line on 10-year rule won't disabuse Niall Quinn's hopes

The interim deputy CEO of the FAI Niall Quinn insisted that the contentious Memorandum of Underst...

The interim deputy CEO of the FAI Niall Quinn insisted that the contentious Memorandum of Understanding between the association and the government remains "open to interpretation" on Friday's OTB AM. 

In what will be a captivating day for the FAI as it embarks upon a Special Council meeting, interim deputy CEO of the association Niall Quinn repeatedly stated his desire for "unity" on OTB AM amid the conflicts of this last week.

A little under one month until an EGM which will determine if the terms of the FAI's MoU with the government are accepted and the association escapes financial ruin, differing opinions over the rigidity of these terms has left such calls for togetherness looking rather fanciful.

Reforms that will attempt to ensure the good governance of the association going forward, Quinn believes there is a potential for wiggle-room regardless of the government's contrary outlook on the matter.

The principle issue that Quinn is hoping to debate rests with the newly imposed 10-year term limit that would see no member of the FAI board maintain a place after this length of time.

"The hard line that existed when the full extent of the problems of the last regime came out ... I think what's happened in the meantime is that the Department [of Sport] have seen an attempt on the part of the executive and the board to implement reform," he suggested.

"If there are tweaks that would work for all parties then they should be looked at. Life is always about talking and trying to get things through, not taking a stance and making accusations and having a tarnished association.

"It is based on interpretation and I don't think government would like us to lose really good skills-sets [to the 10-year rule]."

Asked whether he as interim deputy CEO of the FAI was in favour of tweaking the 10-year rule to enable board members a longer term of office if needs be, Niall Quinn remained somewhat non-committal.

"I would say that my view on that is that we have to show unity and come together," he remarked once again, "and if there is a skills-set there that can help the association going forward then shunning it for the sake of drawing up a rule to remove people who didn't have such skills-sets, it can all be looked at.

"How that is interpreted is open to debate and I would like that debate to happen so people can calm down and show unity together. There is so much at stake here.

"If it means going to the Department of Sport and saying, 'Look, out of these people who have to go, some want to try and stay. Here's their skills-sets.' What's wrong with asking the question and getting people to understand that this is all being done in the best interests of the game going forward?"

As things currently stand, however, Quinn's outlook runs contrary to the government's firm stance on the matter.

In late July, the Department of Sport warned of "damaging" consequences for the FAI if the agreed reforms were not imposed. It is understood that any breach of this agreement would result in the withholding of desperately needed funds for the association.

Despite his repeated insistence that there remained a measure of room for interpretation of these reforms, Quinn acknowledged that the FAI simply had to receive the proposed financial aid if it were to remains a viable entity.

"There are 62 million very important reasons why this vote has to go through," he remarked of the decisive EGM later this month, "and we owe it, we owe it to grassroots, to coaches, to volunteers, to players and our full-time staff in Abbotstown.

"I think you'll find how [the government's stance on the rigidity of the reforms] is interpreted based on the advice and input of UEFA and FIFA that our constituents are absolutely entitled to ask the question if this is cast in stone.

"If you're losing good skills-sets, it is something you want to look at and accommodate."


In the build-up to Friday's Special Council meeting, the FAI's split at boardroom level has been dragged very publicly into view.

Between the independent directors, the eight elected directors and Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry, there has been no shortage of arguments about the degree to which the FAI has been governed effectively in the last six months.

For Niall Quinn, it is time for such disagreements to be put to one side.

"This is a very emotive subject," he began, "we get that, but can we suddenly take one step backwards, get our heads all out of our own backsides and look at the greater issue of what unity can bring to the [EGM] on the 31st of August.

"The narratives, agendas and propaganda flying about, call it what you want, but we have to grow up now. All of the stakeholders have to grow up. Putting individual and self-interests in play before saving the association is wrong."

You can watch Niall Quinn's interview with OTB AM in full here

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FAI Gary Owens Marc Macsharry Niall Quinn Paul Cooke Roy Barrett