NIALL Quinn’s decision to step down as chairman of Sunderland Football Club brings to an end an era in charge which has seen the club rise from the foot of the Championship to become an established Premier League side.
After a famously successful playing career on Wearside, the Irishman returned to the club in 2006 at the head of the Drumaville Consortium and under his chairmanship and with the help of new owner Ellis Short and managers Roy Keane, Ricky Sbragia and Steve Bruce, he presided over a period of progress and stability in the club’s history.
His decision to swap the chairmanship for a new role as the club’s international development director will see Quinn devote his energies to the job of international fundraising.
The club has recently appointed a new national and international marketing director in Mike Farnan, and vice-chairman David Miliband is also seen as a key player in that direction.
Quinn’s move, which finally killed off rumours of recent weeks that he was a target for Manchester City as a potential new chief executive, sees American owner Ellis Short taking on a more hands on approach at the club.
The announcement has seen the rumour-mill crank into overdrive in relation to manager Steve Bruce, with speculation that the manager’s position has at best been weakened or at the worst been fatally compromised, with his sacking imminent.
Those rumours, though, will prove unfounded.
Short and Bruce enjoy a better business relationship than most imagine and the American has been one of the manager’s most ardent supporters through the difficult start to this season.
As for Quinn’s Manchester City link, every possible effort, short of making a public statement, has been made to rubbish and dismiss the reports as untrue.
It should also be acknowledged that Quinn himself has been the driver behind the new move.
With the likes of shirt and ticket sales not really bringing in the revenue that the club needs in an economically challenged part of the world, the club sees it as vital to its progress to bring in potential revenue from abroard, particularly the Far East.
Quinn himself said: “This is a great opportunity for us to make the club stronger and I’m delighted Ellis has agreed to support the plan.”
Short replaces Quinn as chairman. “He’ll be a fantastic chairman and taking this role on speaks volumes about his ambition for the club,” Quinn said.
Short’s decision to take on the role is not expected to see his low profile raised but he is looking forward to Quinn being successful in his new role.
“With financial fair play rules coming into effect it is essential for the long-term success of the club that we develop interests on a global scale and there’s no one better than Niall to sell the ethos of Sunderland to an international audience,” said Short.
“Niall has been keen to drive this change for some time and I agree it’s the way forward for us now.
“Assuming the position of chairman is a great honour and I will treat the role as guardian of this club with the utmost respect.
Margaret Byrne, the Sunderland chief executive, said: “Niall is widely known and hugely respected throughout the world of football.
“His profile, coupled with his vast knowledge of the game and the business means he is perfectly placed to bring Sunderland to the forefront internationally.”