Sport for Business reported yesterday on developments in the ongoing process of establishing a future pathway for the SSE Airtricity League of Ireland.
In our coverage, we reported that Niall Quinn’s Visionary Group had withdrawn from the process.
Last night Quinn issued a statement which denied this.
“The Football Visionary Group has noted with surprise the release by the FAI claiming that the Group has withdrawn its interest in being part of the proposed solution for a newly revamped League of Ireland. These claims are completely false.”
“It appears that these reports were based on a media release circulated by the FAI. If so, it is both confusing and deeply regrettable that the FAI would choose to act in such a disingenuous manner by providing false information to the public and indeed to the League of Ireland clubs. The Group was not contacted for comment prior to the publication of these claims.”
“The Group, therefore, takes this opportunity to once again confirm its total commitment to supporting the clubs and the creation of a better future for the League of Ireland. Indeed, the Group has been in continuous contact with the clubs throughout the process and hopes that their expertise may be utilised by the League of Ireland clubs in redeveloping the professional game in Ireland.”
So where does the truth lie?
Niall Quinn was visible in putting forward an initial plan as part of the Football Forum organised by Minister Shane Ross at the Mansion House at the height of the trouble around the FA and governance.
He followed this up by presenting to the first gathering of the twenty clubs in the League at Abbotstown over the summer though questions were raised at the time over the level of detail in the plan.
A group of eight clubs were selected by the remainder to explore further what the League would look like starting with the 2021 season and that work has continued in substantive detail over the last two months.
As part of this work, the group of clubs invited both of the publicly known consortia seeking to advance external change to meet with them to outline their proposals in greater detail.
Kieran Lucid’s Group will do that in a meeting with the clubs in Dundalk in the coming weeks.
Niall Quinn’s group chose not to meet in September as they felt it was being too controlled by the FAI.
It does not appear that any substantive engagement has taken place individually or collectively at club level and so the Quinn Group did not form part of Tuesday’s seminar where a potential new format and structure was outlined and broadly welcomed by the clubs.
Time will though be given to hear from the Lucid Group about their plans, in advance of a decision being made at a further gathering of the clubs in November.
it was clearly stated by the FAI that they were open to discussion with interested parties but that time was pressing and the clubs, who are the final stakeholders in the future plans needed a degree of certainty.
Investment already in place at Dundalk and rumoured to be close at Shamrock Rovers, as well as the redevelopment of Dalymount Park as a home for Bohemians and Shelbourne FC are major elements that demand a sense of urgency. SSE Airtricity’s sponsorship of the League and Three’s partnership with the FAI are other factors that cannot be pushed back indefinitely.
Niall Quinn has obviously not given up on his plans for an independent league but unless there is some furious back channelling going on with clubs then the clock is ticking down quickly on whether those plans can be brought forward in this current process.
If he feels that things are being rushed, that is his prerogative, but the reality of business. media and sport is that it waits for no one individual.