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broom for improvement; unite the union champions cup champions cup launch Linfield's Andrew Waterworth (centre) with St Pat's Barry Murphy, Bohs' Cristian Magerusan, Shamrock Rovers' Ronan Finn and Jamie McGrath of Dundalk Fenlon calls for sweeping changes at FAI to 'make people heard'.

Byline: paul o'hehir

PAT FENLON fears the crisis-hit FAI are trying to push through reform too quickly.

And in their haste, he is concerned that 'people who have a huge contribution to make' may not be heard.

The decorated former League of Ireland manager is now general manager of Belfast giants Linfield.

And he was representing the Irish League champions at yesterday's launch of the new 'Unite the Union Champions Cup'.

Linfield will face this season's League of Ireland winners in a two-legged decider on November 8 and 11. The first game will be played at Windsor Park with the second at the home of the yet-to-be-crowned League of Ireland champions.

But the critical juncture Irish football finds itself at wasn't far from everyone's thoughts in Malahide yesterday.

"I've not seen any change yet but I'm very hopeful because we need it, we definitely need it," he said.

"I'm hopeful that people who have a big contribution to make to the game in Ireland are allowed to do that. Personalities should not come into it.

"We've so many people on the outside looking in who can make a major contribution and that's disappointing.

"But you're hopeful this is the change that's brought around - that it's a new broom.

"Eventually it'll go back to where it was if we don't have serious change in there. It has all come home to roost now and the association needs a complete restructuring."

Steeped in the League of Ireland, Fenlon hopes the domestic game benefits from whatever takes place.

"Most of the players coming through to the international team are being developed here as the stepping stone to England," he said.

"We've got to ensure this is vibrant. It's sometimes lost but there have been good things that have happened over the years with the association.

"But there has been no input or desire to make the League of Ireland any better.

"I've taken stick from people for trying to make things better and full-time, but that's second nature across the world in football circles.

"There's nobody who can tell me this cannot happen here with the wealth and prosperity that we have in the country.

"It doesn't take a lot of money to try get the league into a position where there's employment for people. But there's no industry here for the game."

Meanwhile, Fenlon feels the FAI and IFA should make a financial contribution to the 'Unite the Union Champions Cup' prize pot.

The sponsors are stumping up [euro]100,000 for each of the three years but Fenlon said: "It's a good chance for both associations to show how serious they are about the game.

"If you look at both squads at international level, they're both relying on players coming through their leagues."

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 14, 2019
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