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'It was indescribably bad' - PFAI chief McGuinness on nightmare relations with old FAI

General Secretary of the Professional Footballers' Association Ireland (PFAI) Stephen McGuinness ...



Soccer

'It was indescribably bad' - PFAI chief McGuinness on nightmare relations with old FAI

General Secretary of the Professional Footballers' Association Ireland (PFAI) Stephen McGuinness has candidly spoken about how bad relations became with the previous FAI regime.

McGuinness joined The Football Show to discuss the return to play plans for professional footballers in Ireland, as attention turned to why the regime of Niall Quinn and Gary Owens is easier to deal with.

"It would be very difficult for it to be any worse," said McGuinness when asked about communications with Quinn et al.

"I can't describe to you how bad [it was] - you would have no cooperation, nobody willing to work with you. You would walk into the canteen and people would get up and walk away, with nobody sitting beside you.

"You would find it awkward to walk around, you would get no communication - it was very difficult. You couldn't use the pitches outside for training our out-of-contract players.

"I cannot tell you how bad it was."

Personal relationships that were previously good, deteriorated - according to McGuinness.

"From the PFAI perspective, we had a job to do. Because maybe people didn't respect it - and the way that we challenged the FAI at the time - the people below the leadership felt little choice but to implement what was being said to them.

"I felt sorry for them, and it was hugely difficult. We had been in that building for ten years and these are people we built up relationships with; overnight, they just fell apart.

"Privately, they would say to you: 'it's nothing personal, this is just the directive we have got from the top.' "

New FAI?

However, the recent changes at the FAI mean that McGuinness feels much happier and better able to serve his members with the new leadership in Abbotstown.

"Things have changed. There are new people in there now, there is a new board; Niall and Gary Owens have gone in.

"We deal more with Niall and I have to say that he has been open, you can contact him, challenge him and talk to him. He understands the game and the challenges that players face.

"We are obviously not always going to agree [...] but the difference now is that you feel a part of it. There is no way a year ago that we would have been a part of the steering group - no chance.

"Our own relationship with government is better, so we're able to get answers for players from them, so it is hugely important for players' voices to be heard.

"They feel more of a part of the game and so do we."

McGuinness found himself looking at other working relationships on the island with green eyes.

"I looked jealously at times at the relationship between the GPA and GAA, as well as the rugby union players and their relationship [with their respective body.]

"Jealously, you would look at it and think 'surely we can work like that, it is easy to do'.

"We have challenges, we understand that, but we are definitely at the start of something where we are working together. That can only benefit the game and hopefully that continues to grow."

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