Quinn gives it up

Last updated : 23 January 2002 By Andy Robinson
It is all the more surprising when that story revolves around a Premiership footballer and his intention to raise £1 million for charity from a testimonial match.

Niall Quinn turned 35 last October after a career that went from the streets of Dublin, to Arsenal and Manchester City before he joined his present club Sunderland in 1996.

His honest endeavour has made him a big crowd favourite at Sunderland but after only 5½ years there you might think that he hasn't quite done enough to earn a testimonial and you would be right.

He had, however, done more than enough to earn a testimonial from the Irish FA for his appearances for the Republic of Ireland and he would have had one but for the strange tale of moving goalposts.

8 years ago when Quinny had played 50 matches for the Republic (and he was earning a wage considerably less than it is now) he was entitled to a testimonial from the FAI but as more and more Irish players were hitting this figure they decided to increase the qualifying number of matches to 75. When he had played 74 they decided to do away with testimonials altogether.

So Niall Quinn missed out on his testimonial well boo-hoo, he's got more than enough to live on anyway.

The thing was that when he was approaching his 50 games for the Republic of Ireland, earning not a massive amount, and living in the not unreasonable expectation that he would have a testimonial he decided that he would give ALL the proceeds to charity.

Of course that never happened but last year he had a chance conversation with Sunderland chairman Bob Murray when Quinny's plans for his testimonial money came to light. Surprised by the idea and the sentiment Murray offered him the chance to have his ‘benefit' match at the Stadium of Light.

Without them knowing in advance that the proceeds would go to charity, Mick McCarthy and the Republic of Ireland agreed to be Sunderland's opponents for the match to be played in May before they leave for the World Cup in Japan.

Assuming that there will be a capacity crowd it is expected that gate receipts alone will total £1 million which it is planned to distribute to children's hospitals in Sunderland and Dublin.

Now one thing that occurred to me was (and despite not being a particularly religious man, I think there is reference to this in the Bible somewhere) so what? He's had a career that most of us can only dream about, he's probably got enough money to live off for the rest of his life and maybe he can afford to give the money to charity more than those on the poverty line that might give a couple of quid a week but I think that is to miss the point.

If you heard that Niall Quinn was having a testimonial would it have raised an eyebrow in the way that Ryan Giggs' ‘benefit' match did? Even if it did would you be satisfied if he decided to give a proportion of it to charity as, I think, Giggs belatedly did?

I think  the point is that Quinn should have had a testimonial but was denied one. Having been awarded one, for whatever reason, he could have said ‘stuff you I'm keeping X amount but he didn't and I firmly believe that it is a genuinely charitable act from a player who recognises that he owes his perhaps fortunate life a debt.

If you were in any doubt think about this. It has apparently become the custom for players to reward their colleagues who appear in their testimonial games with a lavish gift no doubt the more ostentatious the better. Witness Denis Wise reportedly giving the participants in his testimonial match at Chelsea a Rolex watch each.

Niall Quinn has decided that each player taking part in his own match will receive a simple letter of thanks from a child likely to benefit form their participation in the game.

Of course another good thing to come out of this is that would any other player in Quinn's position or higher have the nerve other than to donate all their testimonial money to charity?

Time will tell on that one but as a recognition of the sentiment behind the idea, Clarets Mad have contacted Sunderland to suggest that they might want to broaden the scope of their original plan to turn Quinn's gesture into a more nationwide charity event where fans could contribute if they saw fit. £10,000 from every club in the country is almost another million so who knows where it might lead.

Whatever else happens, congratulations to Niall Quinn on proving that football in the 21st century does have a human face.