John Delaney must immediately leave the FAI altogether. But that won’t be enough. The FAI board should resign en masse to prevent Irish football from falling further into public disrepute. They’re not part of the solution, they’re part of the problem.
The cynicism of the statement in which the Board revealed Delaney was being moved from his CEO job to the newly-created post of Executive Vice-President is breathtaking. It claims the move results from recommendations about corporate governance made by an English sporting consultancy.
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The Board expects us to believe this decision has nothing to do with the allegations of financial irregularities within the Association. It’s a pure coincidence that right at the time Delaney was under the heaviest pressure of his career, corporate governance required the simultaneous creation of a job that suits him perfectly.
The new post to which the FAI will appoint Delaney fits the seniority criteria necessary to stand for election to the Executive Committee of UEFA. Which is handy considering Delaney covets such a job. Another coincidence.
At the root of the trouble is the €100,000 given by Delaney to the FAI in March 2017 and returned by the Association to him three months later. This has been explained by the FAI as a ‘bridging loan’ to solve cash-flow problems.
Oddly, Sport Ireland, which looks after the FAI’s state funding, heard nothing about such difficulties. Even if the loan was necessary, why was it made in secret, without showing up on the FAI’s books?
Why, for that matter, did Delaney take the Sunday Times to court to try and prevent anyone from hearing about the loan? There may be an innocent explanation but, on the face of it, this stinks to high heaven.
Odours of various types have plagued Delaney and the FAI for some time. It stinks that the Association took out loans in 2008 in the belief that the money could be repaid by the sale of 10,400 Vantage Club seats, and then failed to sell even 40pc of those. It stinks that subsequent financial troubles led to pay cuts and redundancies for FAI staff.
It stinks that, despite this debacle, Delaney became the highest paid sporting executive in the country, earning more than the CEOs of Italian and Spanish football combined. And that the prize money for winning the League of Ireland is less than one-third of his salary.
The stench doesn’t stop there. When Delaney was caught on camera singing an IRA song in a Dublin pub five years ago, his solicitors sent a letter to newspapers saying: “My client’s position is simply that it is not him singing in the video. If you take the decision to publish, legal proceedings will follow.” A few hours later Delaney admitted it was him singing in the video. Boy, did that one stink.
Now for the stinkiest cut of all. In 2012 Delaney told the FAI’s employees they had to accept a 10% pay cut and reduced pensions.
In a moving show of solidarity he announced he’d be lowering his own wages from €400,000 to a paltry €360,000. Most FAI workers were coaches and administrators on around one-tenth of that, and the cuts brought their wages down to between €27,000 and €36,000.
By coincidence, €36,000 is the annual figure the FAI have been secretly paying to cover Delaney’s rent. So while the €360,000 salary seemed outlandish enough, it wasn’t even the full story.
He was getting a perk worth the same amount as the entire wages of the workers whose pay he’d slashed.
The FAI has become a kind of personality cult which appears to see Irish football as essentially a life support system for John Delaney’s reputation. Hence their obsession with stamping out expressions of dissent against its CEO at internationals.
Delaney also epitomises the overpaid CEO who gets whatever the Board fancies giving their buddy. They’re everywhere in Irish life, from businesses to ‘charities’. The defence of such largesse is that someone like Delaney could be making a fortune in the private sector. Pull the other one.
The Government needs to have a serious word. They’ve got tough with the governing bodies of swimming and boxing in the past.
Should they fail to follow suit with the FAI, who’ve received €35m of state funding in the last decade, that’ll stink too. It’ll look like Leo Varadkar and his Fine Gael chums always regard a rich man as a comrade, even one on rent allowance.
Sponsors may be in an even better position to call a halt to the current malaise. And you’d like to think fans at the match against Georgia tomorrow night will make their position clear no matter what efforts are made to silence them.
It’s time for John Delaney and the FAI Board to take the metaphorical revolver and the metaphorical bottle of whiskey and retire to the metaphorical study.
In the words of Oliver Cromwell, perhaps the only man they’d currently defeat in an Irish popularity poll, “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”
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