Dundalk FC head coach Vinny Perth has called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to step in to address the “national emergency” caused by the crisis in the FAI.
Recently revealed liabilities of €55 million have left the future of the association up in the air, putting the future growth of the game here at risk as well as several jobs.
While anxious to see leadership on the issue from the Government, PFAI Manager of the Year Perth hit out at other politicians including Minister Shane Ross for what he described as “political grandstanding” over the issue ahead of an expected General Election in the New Year.
“It’s time for a little bit of calmness,” he said when asked about the situation.
“I’m just sick of the political grandstanding that is going on at the moment.
“We get a tiny amount of money off the Government for the most participated sport in the whole country. What football does for Ireland in terms of the opportunities it gives people from grassroots all the way up is superb but then to hear some of the political grandstanding is concerning. You’d know there was an election coming up in six months time.
“We’ve been left behind on funding for many years to the likes of the GAA and many other sports. We probably need a little bit more support now in that sense from Government. I think it’s a national crisis and Leo Varadkar needs to get involved.
“When you look at some of the politicians, I think they’ve been pictured more with the last CEO than any real supporter has so I think it’s time Leo Varadkar got involved because this is a national crisis and I think we need to be careful.
“I think the FAI is in a very difficult situation. There are a lot of good people there in that organisation. People are saying we need to protect the grassroots and we do but we also need to protect certain people in middle management and certain people who are doing a lot of good work.
“It’s very concerning at the moment that there is no leadership there. The government in one sense are having too much to say because for what they put in they don’t deserve that level of input unless they want to really get involved. I do feel Leo Varadkar has to get involved in it because it’s that serious of an issue.”
In a worst-case scenario Irish clubs such as Dundalk could be banned from Europe for up to five years if the FAI were to go bust but the title-winning boss is hopeful it won’t come to that.
“That’s a worst case scenario but equally there is no guarantee that if the FAI went bust and we lost our place in Europe that our owners would just walk out the door. I think that would be unfair on them and I think that’s important to say but at the same time that’s a disastrous situation not just for Dundalk but for many Irish clubs.
“That’s why I’m saying it’s a national emergency because football is so important to Irish culture. There are late night leagues in this country and you see kids playing in them. The importance of football to the wider social aspects of Ireland is massive so we need to be careful not to lose that.
“People will say if the FAI fail the U-12s won’t stop but who is going to organise these games and where are the referees going to come from? We can’t allow that to happen.
“Remember our President is a big, big fan of the game. We could do with him maybe speaking out and lending a hand. At least we know with him it’s not about political grandstanding. It would be coming from the heart but I’m just not sure you can say the same about Shane Ross or many other politicians at the moment and that’s one thing that concerns me. I’m not sure that they’re genuine and I think it’s time that Leo Varadkar steps up and realises how serious a problem it is,” said Perth.