John Delaney continues to split opinion as he steps aside from FAI

first_imgTopics Sportblog Share on WhatsApp Although John Delaney retains support from certain loyal sections of the Irish football family, he has never been more unpopular in his native land. The long-time chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland until he stood down last month to take up a newly created role as the executive vice‑president is no stranger to controversy but now the 51-year-old finds himself clinging by his fingertips to a crumbling personal fiefdom that increasingly resembles an empire of dirt.The business of sports administration is, by its very nature, staggeringly dreary but the subject of football governance in the Republic of Ireland has recently been little short of box office. In March a Sunday Times exclusive revealed Delaney had mysteriously loaned his employer €100,000 in April 2017. That was soon repaid and no record of any such transaction appeared in the FAI’s accounts. Share on Pinterest Share on Facebook Republic of Ireland Read more Share on LinkedIncenter_img Share on Twitter Share via Email comment FAI funding suspended by Sport Ireland amid concerns over Delaney loan Share on Messenger After Delaney failed to obtain a high court injunction to prevent this report of his largesse, it was promptly announced he would be stepping down to take up his new role. In Ireland, where his extremely generous annual salary of €360,000 had long been a talking point, it did not go unnoticed he would be taking a significant pay cut. He would now be forced to get by on an annual salary of €120,000, topped up by the €160,000 he earns each year from Uefa for his work on its executive committee (ExCo).When defending the size of his salary, Delaney has boasted he could walk into any number of private sector jobs and earn a lot more. Crucially, for as long as he remains with the FAI, albeit on significantly less money, he is eligible for re-election to ExCo in 2021. It is widely believed his new job was specifically created to maintain his eligibility to do so as it is with Uefa that his long-term career ambitions appear to lie.For well over a decade Delaney has occupied a very peculiar position in Irish public life. He has his admirers, most of them at grassroots level who appreciate his willingness to sanction grants and travel the length and breadth of the country to cut ribbons and glad-hand appreciative volunteers unused to seeing their efforts acknowledged from on high. Among the broader general public, however, he is a regular subject of derision and is largely despised by fans of the Republic, who regularly proclaim their contempt in banner form. He is also extremely unpopular with those who follow League of Ireland clubs in a domestic competition he once described as the FAI’s “difficult child”.Delaney revels in a weird kind of fame enjoyed by very few in his line of administrative work. He claims to have spent more than €30,000 buying drinks for supporters at away games, famously lost his shoes during some ribald post-match celebrations and once posed with models on the cover of a Sunday newspaper’s lifestyle magazine. For reasons that remain utterly baffling, he agreed to participate in a preposterous piece of accompanying self-promotion masquerading as a serious three-part documentary, in which he spoke at great length about how wonderful he is and prompted much public ridicule by name-dropping the Queen.Interest in his salary has increased during a time of austerity, when more lowly FAI staff were forced to take pay cuts of up to 15%. More recent Sunday Times revelations that the FAI has been paying his rent to the tune of €36,000 a year for the thick end of a decade while he was wielding the company credit card have done nothing to improve the national mood. A man of evidently expensive tastes, it was revealed he racked up €40,000 of credit in one six‑month period in 2016. Among the highlights: €6,000 in cash withdrawals, €4,474 on a hotel stay Dubai, €500 for two visits to what must be the world’s most overpriced dry cleaners and €563 on more than a dozen visits to his local pub.The FAI’s general lack of openness and accountability has been well documented but recently reached a farcical nadir. As recipients of government funding (which has in recent weeks been suspended and could cost grassroots football €1.4m), Delaney and his fellow blazers were hauled before a government select committee to answer questions about his famous “bridging loan” to an employer with an annual turnover of €45m. Citing “legal advice” that apparently precluded him from answering questions about anything he had done during 14 years as chief executive, Delaney spent most of the day in stubborn silence while assorted cronies apparently did all they could to obfuscate and evade. It did not appear to have crossed the mind of their former chief executive, the one man in the room with all the answers, that the legal advice he spoke of could easily have been ignored.Although he might have thought his stonewalling tactics clever, Delaney’s arrogant silence appears to have done him few favours. This week the FAI board, after its auditors revealed “proper accounting records” had not been kept, announced it would be stepping down en masse before a more forensic and independent examinations of the books. No longer on the board since his redeployment, Delaney agreed to “step aside” from – but pointedly not quit – his new role with “immediate effect”.It has been lost on no one that while others have fallen on their swords, this great survivor retains his title and will continue to receive his salary while on what is ostensibly gardening leave. Although his days with the FAI look increasingly numbered, the determination with which he is hanging in there borders on the commendably grim. Reuse this contentlast_img

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