It might be only for six months but Noel Mooney has clarified that he is joining the FAI “full-time to lead the administration” for that period.
But when asked if this means he will effectively be calling the shots in Abbotstown, the Limerick man seconded from UEFA to help the Association out of its current troubles, said: “The FAI board is in charge of the strategy. The job of the administration is to implement the strategy that's approved by the Board. The administration is never in charge of Irish football. It should always be the board and that's how it will be in my six months here.”
And, in an interview with FAI TV, Mooney appeared to dismiss the idea that, further down the line, he might be in the running for the vacant CEO position formerly held by John Delaney.
“I'm really happy at UEFA as the head of Business Development across European football,” he said. “The ambition is to roll up the sleeves here, work extremely hard as a servant to Irish football and then return to the UEFA at the end of November to continue my work in European football.”
Mooney also denied reports that he had previously discussed taking up the top job full-time with the FAI.
“I had never discussed the role as CEO of the FAI,” he stated. “In UEFA, when you're in a role in a team leading the development of European football, I don't think it would be unusual for people to think that if you go home, you would take a leading role with the organisation. I've certainly never discussed it with the FAI.”
The former Cork City goalkeeper said his initial task in Abbotstown, working under the title of General Manager for Football Services and Partnerships, is “to start rebuilding trust with people in Irish football” as part of a process of reform that will, he claimed, “lay the foundation for a bright new chapter”.
And UEFA, he declared, will not be found wanting in providing support across a range of areas, including finance.
“I don’t quite know how much support is required yet. When I join in June we will assess that with the staff here and agree what kind of support we can get from UEFA and we will have no hesitation in accessing all that support be it personnel or finance, or whatever area UEFA and FIFA can help us in. Having seen first hand their resources, it's immense and it's a great opportunity for the FAI to capitalise on that.”
Against the backdrop of the FAI’s troubled relationship with government as a result of the current crisis, Mooney said that one of the Association’s targets is to see Sport Ireland funding restored.
“Football offers huge benefit to the Government and a large return to the exchequer,” he said. “An investment in getting people to play football is going to be good for the Government.
Critics of Mooney’s appointment have complained that, as a former FAI employee, he will be seen as having been too closely aligned with the John Delaney era.
Asked, in particular, about the praise he heaped on the Association only two years ago when speaking as a UEFA guest at the 2017 AGM, he replied: ”Part of my role at UEFA is to visit the annual congress of football federations. We make a speech on behalf of UEFA and our president, and generally, we would be complimentary of the association when we do speak to them.
”However, the FAI has many faces. It does tremendous work across an array of areas. The FAI would be held up in some areas as a barometer for other federations, for community development. If the eastern federations had the same approach to it as the FAI, European football would be a much better place.
"We have huge countries, like Turkey, Russia and Ukraine, that would be far behind the FAI in terms of developing the sport at grassroots level. So the FAI can in many ways be seen as a leading federation in UEFA, that's for sure. And it's just a shame that the things that have happened have cast a shadow on the really good work of the FAI.”
However, the former Cork City goalkeeper expressed confidence that the embattled organisation can now turn a corner.
“There is a new chapter coming for Irish football and I'd like everyone to be positive about what's coming,” he said.
"Now is the opportunity to hear them and with various forums in the months ahead, we will listen to their voices. Our role at the FAI is to implement those changes that they crave and we crave.
"We want to see Irish football reach its full potential and we will work very hard to make sure that happens and I'm very confident that can happen.”