To say Jonathon Hill has inherited a mess is an understatement.
The new CEO of the FAI is tasked with rebuilding Irish football following a financial crisis which pushed the organisation to the brink of insolvency. If that situation wasn’t difficult enough, the 57-year-old is also guiding Irish football through the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CEO is approaching all of this with the same energy and enthusiasm which served his career so well to date and he spoke with the Irish sporting media on Friday for the first time.
Before he donned the green jersey, he was Group Commercial Director with the English Football Association, as Commercial Director of Wembley National Stadium and Commercial Director for Euro '96. His impressive CV is now a being utilised to repair and modernise the FAI.
“There’s a number of legacy issues in the book; some of that I’ve had to deal with moving forward,” he said referring to the bestseller ‘Champagne Football’ from Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan which detailed the management of the FAI by the former CEO John Delaney.
“I am now focused on the future because what else can I do? The staff of the FAI, the board of the FAI, and all of our stakeholders want to hear and see my vision for a modern progressive and diverse sports governing body. That is what I am concentrating on.”
Since October, Vera Pauw has extended her stay as Republic of Ireland’s women’s team manager, every club in the League of Ireland received a license for 2021, men’s senior football returned to Limerick, and a new streaming service was announced to cover the Premier Division, First Division, and the Women’s National League.
“The steaming service was an important announcement for us to make,” he said.
“I genuinely believe that we, as an association, need and needed to do, from the simple perspective this is a service for the fans. I’m really pleased we are able to extend the service from last year to the First Division and the Women’s National League for the first time.”
Hill’s next task is to resolve the FAI’s relationship with Robbie Keane, ten months after Stephen Kenny told the Irish record-breaker that he would not feature on his coaching team.
“Robbie remains an FAI employee,” Hill explained. “To be totally honest, I haven’t had the opportunity yet to sit down with him to talk to him. I will do that, as I have done with many people. Robbie is clearly a legend in Irish football and I look forward to having an open and honest conversation with about the situation.”
Damien Duff, who left his role with Stephen Kenny’s backroom team last November, is another name the new FAI CEO will want to repair relations with.
“I spoke to Damien and we had a long, open, and honest discussion around a range of issues. That was very instructive for me and one thing I can say about Damien, he reminded me about his passion for Irish football and the Irish national team. He is completely supportive of Stephen and the squad for World Cup qualifying.”
“Do I want to harness that kind of passion and commitment around Irish football moving forward? Absolutely.
“We agreed to keep in touch and to keep talking about those big issues and I have no reason to disbelieve that Damien will play a major role around football going forward.”
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