Packie Bonner visits RISSC (London)

Packie Bonner and Richard Fahy talking to the RISSC (London) audience
Packie presenting the Club's Football Team annnual awards

An audience of nearly one hundred members and guests attended a special FAI Technical Development Presentation to the Republic of Ireland Soccer Supporters Club (London), at the Crown Moran Hotel on Friday 29 June 2007.

FAI Technical Director, Packie Bonner and Assistant Technical Director, Richard Fahy, provided a comprehensive review of progress made in relation to the Technical Development Plan, which was launched in June 2004. The future aims and ambitions for the Plan were also discussed.

The following, are just some of the many areas covered by Packie and Richard during their presentation.

Football Participation

Football in Ireland, now enjoys the status of being the highest participation and most popular team sport in the country, with 17% of the adult population actively taking part. The level of involvement continues to grow, in what is now a rapidly evolving society which has undergone dramatic cultural and demographic changes over the past twenty years. These changes continue apace and it is predicted that within a further ten years, some 20% of the population will be of non-Irish heritage.

The FAI, as the National Governing Body for football in Ireland, faces many challenges in expanding the game and increasing participation levels. There are a number of very significant developments currently in progress with several more initiatives set to be introduced.

Stadium Development

The re-development of Lansdowne Road, in conjunction with the Government and the Irish Rugby Football Union, is paramount to the progress of the game at senior and indeed all levels. Following completion the new stadium will, in addition to being the new home for the senior international team, afford the opportunity to increase revenue streams vital to the implementation of the various objectives of the Association.

Administration

The re-location of the currently fragmented offices of the FAI to Abbotstown, scheduled for October of this year, will provide an environment in keeping with a modern corporate unit. The Abbotstown project is of course destined to provide much more than just an administrative function. A whole range of sporting facilities, incorporating several sports, will also form part of the overall project.

Eircom League of Ireland

This year has seen the integration of the eircom League of Ireland within the administrative umbrella of the FAI. The process of raising the quality and standards of the League is an arduous and delicate task and will take time and patience before the benefits become clearly visible.

Football and the Community

The process of developing and expanding particiption in the game is focused across the country as a whole, with special emphasis being placed upon community involvement and in particular disadvantaged locations. This investment has seen the implementation of a " Football for All" national programme working with the disability sectors of the community. The appointment of a National Chilfdren's Officer and a National Intercultural Co-ordinator are ground breaking initiatives for Ireland.

The appointment of jointly funded Development Officers has been agreed with 24 City and County Councils and several more are close to completion. The combination of the skills provided by the various councils and the expertise of the fully trained development officers is seen as an innovative approach to both social and sporting development.

The continued investment in the improvement of existing sports complexes and introduction of new facilities is another area which has reaped significant benefit in recent years. This area receives significant support from both the Sports Council of Ireland and the government.

Grassroots Football

The development and expansion of grassroots football has seen magnificent progress in recent years. The numbers participating in the Summer Soccer Schools run by the FAI has grown rapidly with some 230 courses involving in the region of 20,000 children. The strategic plan for Primary and Secondary Schools has facilitated the training of almost 8,400 teachers. It has reached out to some 1,240 schools with more than 155,000 children benefiting from the various programmes.

Intercultural Plan

The recent launch of the Intercultural Plan is another significent step in the education and enhancement of the society surrounding football. The Plan is focused on supporting social inclusion across all cultural areas of our ever changing country. A whole range of events and initiatives aimed at non-Irish nationals form just a part of the overall programme.

The Women's Game

The global expansion of Women's football is enormous with FIFA predicting that participtaing numbers are likely to rival the Men's game in certain areas within a relatively short period of time. Ireland has witnessed significant increased activity within Women's football with 19 Leagues providing the competitive vehicle for more than 15,500 registered players.

Coaching and Player Development

Fundamental to the development and expansion of the game is the requirement to provide the appropriate level of coaching to those participating in the game. The FAI has been the driver of an extensive range of coaching courses and programmes up to and including the UEFA Level 4 Pro Licence. More than twenty top level coaches, including many Eircom League managers and several of those involved in managing our underage international sides, recently competed their UEFA Pro Licence badge.

Throughout time, Ireland has produced some young footballers who, mostly through their own natural ability, desire and endeavour, have been the match of their peers in the international game and been a source of both joy and pride for their country. The extensive coaching and education options now available to young players will provide current and future players with greater knowledge and afford them the opportunity to develop and progress to the higher levels of the game.

Summary

The presentation by Packie and Richard was informative, instructive and provided the RISSC audience with the opportunity to reflect upon the development and progress of the game in Ireland. The success of completed and current programmes lends a confidence that the governance of the game as a whole in Ireland is in safe hands. There are and always will be, new challenges to be faced, but the structures which have been established and others on their way, give credence to the belief that Ireland will in time, challenge at the level which so inspired the nation during the eighties and nineties.