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'It was a hornets' nest' | Sha...
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'It was a hornets' nest' | Shane Ross speaks out on FAI issues

Shane Hannon
Shane Hannon

10:19 17 Feb 2020

Minister for Transport, Tourism, and Sport Shane Ross has spoken about the "hornets' nest" that was the FAI, which experienced serious financial difficulties during his tenure in government.

Ross lost his seat as a Dublin-Rathdown TD in the recent general election, but will continue in his role as Minister until a new government is formed, as per the Irish constitution.

The Government last month announced that it will restore funding and provide interest-free loans to the FAI for the next three years in a bid to secure the survival of the association.

And speaking this morning on The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk, Minister Ross said he thinks the future of the organisation, and grassroots football, now looks more optimistic.

"The FAI I think, I hope we dealt with very successfully. It was a hornets' nest, and it came up to bit us very, very quickly.

"I'd had a kind of pretty tough baptism dealing with Pat Hickey in the OCI in the first few months of my ministry, which wasn't really to do with sport but with how sport is administered, as was the FAI.

"In both cases you came across power being concentrated in a very, very small number of hands. Sport... is a big business. And it's not just about people breaking records and scoring goals, it's about huge amounts of money. And where there are huge amounts of money, there are always problems.

"We dealt with the FAI I think effectively, I hope effectively. We've cleaned out the board now at this stage which was something that was very difficult to do. We've got independent directors there who I think are people of incredible integrity.

"And we have certainly lent them some money, on very, very strict conditions, but at least Irish football, and football at grassroots, is going to prosper as a result."

Minister Ross also addressed what some perceived as his relative lack of interest in, or knowledge of, sport when he took office as Minister in the department.

"I learned a lot about sport. There's a bit of truth in what you say, and a bit of myth, and I probably fuelled the myth and not the truth.

"Take football for instance - I was going to [Republic of] Ireland international matches for a long, long time before I was Minister for Sport. I was really interested in it, I enjoyed it, I was going to rugby matches, I was doing all those things for a long, long time, at an international level.

"I wasn't doing it at the grassroots [level] until I became a TD, I have to be absolutely honest about that. But what I discovered about sport, which really was absolutely stunning, over the four or five years - the incredible amount of activity that goes on that is fuelled and supported and completely kept going by the volunteers.

"When it came to sports policy, we came across this extraordinary conflict between whether you give more money to elite sports or participation. And I suddenly realised, 'Hey, of course, the answer is you should give more emphasis to participation."

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FAI Minister Of Sport Off The Ball Pat Hickey Shane Ross The Pat Kenny Show

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