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FAI CEO says 'videogate' was a factor behind Duff departure

Ann-Marie Donelan
Ann-Marie Donelan

12:56 26 Feb 2021

FAI CEO Jonathan Hill has said that the controversy surrounding a motivational video that was shown to the Republic of Ireland squad before their friendly with England last year was a factor in Damien Duff's departure. 

41-year-old Duff stepped down as one of Stephen Kenny's assistants in January, two months on from 'videogate'.

No reason for the decision was given at the time.

Speaking to OTB Sports on Friday, Hill, who was appointed to his role with the FAI in October, said that there were a number of reasons behind Duff's decision to step away.

"I had a long and private with Damien [Duff] and we talked about a whole range of issues.

"I don't think there was one single issue that Damien was pointing to in relation to his decision.

"He articulated, very clearly, his thoughts in relation to the association, above all else, but also in relation to Irish football.

"He has taken his decision and I respect that.

"One thing I would say from that conversation is Damien is completely 100% committed to supporting Stephen [Kenny] and the national team in the world cup qualification process this year. You couldn't find an Irishman who is more proud and more hopeful in relation to success.

"Damien took his decision, it was a private decision, and I respect that completely.

"I spoke to him some time after his decision [was made]. I think Damien is the type of guy who once he has taken a decision he sticks with it so that wasn't the thrust of our conversation.

"It was more about understanding generally his thoughts in relation to the FAI and international football and it was a fascinating conversation and a really useful conversation so I'm glad we had it."

Duff spoke for the first time in relation to his departure last week while on punditry duty for RTÉ.

The Dublin native, who has earned 100 senior international caps for Ireland as a player, remained quite tight-lipped though on the circumstances behind his decision.

He said he wanted to keep what happened with his departure private.

During Friday's conversation with OTB Sports Hill admitted the video and the subsequent controversy that surrounded it was a factor.

"It was just one of many things we talked about, it wasn't a single overriding issue for Damien."

Stephen Kenny has had a horrible start to his international managerial career.

Since taking over last summer his squad has been rocked by injuries, Covid-19 issues, and also the unwelcome international attention the video attracted.

Hill has defended the FAI's investigative process following it, which some said undermined Kenny.

"It was never an investigation. I felt that it was important for us to establish the facts and it was simply a fact-finding process that I asked Gary Owens to support me with once we became aware of the issue at hand after we became aware of the issue at hand, and actually, that came via a UK based newspaper.

"Once we knew that they were going to publish the story we felt it was important to look closer at the story and that's what we did.

"Once we had the facts I went back and talked to the FAI Board.

"I also personally had the chance to see the video, I was the only English person on that call with the board and was not in the slightest bit offended by what I saw in the video.

"The board listened, took those explanations, and now I really want to move forward."

Hill went on to further defend how the FAI handled the situation.

Addressing the association's statement, which said they were "looking into this matter internally as a matter of urgency to establish the facts" Hill defended their tone and language, which some have suggested went too far.

"The reason we were looking at it urgently was because the fact we knew press coverage was going to break.

"As a hopefully modern and progressive organisation I wanted to review the situation that we were being told about.

"Those conversations took about 48 hours, I think everyone would rather not have had to go through the process, but we did.

"And we did the process in the best and most expeditious way we could. The board took its decision and there's no case to answer and we move forward."

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