Thursday 29 September 2016

Comment: OCI surely needs its most potent sports administrator - but John Delaney is invisible

Published 23/08/2016 | 02:30

John Delaney ;with Pat Hickey and (left) Eamon Collins
John Delaney ;with Pat Hickey and (left) Eamon Collins

Where is Ireland's most potent sports administrator when his country needs him most? When the OCI unfurled its three-member "crisis sub-committee" in the early hours of yesterday morning, the surprise was not necessarily the names of those who were included.

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Rather, the glaring omission of the one name who is possessed of the inordinate experience and leadership required in this time of self-stated crisis.

With due deference to the triumvirate of Sarah Keane of Swim Ireland, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin of Athletics Ireland and Robert Norwood of the Snowsports Association of Ireland, none of the aforementioned can ever claim to challenge the seemingly illimitable influence of their fellow board member, the Football Association of Ireland Chief Executive John Delaney.

Delaney was in attendance at the meeting on Sunday night, but he hasn't been included on the line-up of the sub-committee.

FAI Chief executive John Delaney and Pat Hickey at Katie Taylor’s semi-final contest at the 2012 Olympics. Seated behind them is then-British Prime Minister David Cameron. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
FAI Chief executive John Delaney and Pat Hickey at Katie Taylor’s semi-final contest at the 2012 Olympics. Seated behind them is then-British Prime Minister David Cameron. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Delaney has already been deigned by his temporarily indisposed Olympic Council of Ireland president, Pat Hickey, as his anointed successor.

Nobody within the OCI's board can boast the extensive global, political and sporting links that have been forged by Delaney - and it is inarguable that his experience of ticketing and bureaucracy at the helm when Ireland visited two successive European Championship finals cannot possibly be trumped.

He can also draw upon his experiences in dealing with the hospitality group THG, who in the past have dealt simultaneously with both the OCI and the FAI.

THG was granted rights to sell hospitality packages in the early days of the Aviva Stadium and was a hospitality partner with the FAI when the stadium opened in 2010, albeit the association has since distanced itself from the group.

Nevertheless, Delaney would presumably have intimate knowledge of their past relationship, while THG's Marcus Evans, who is also the owner of Ipswich Town FC owner, would also be well-known in football circles given his previous employment of Delaney's current employee, Roy Keane.

The current hospitality group used by the OCI, Pro 10, also features members of the football family who would also be better known by Delaney than anyone from either Swim Ireland or anyone connected to the admirable pursuit of snowsports.

Truly, Delaney's irrepressible influence in sports administration appears to be so loosely discarded by the very organisation with which he has been designated such a leading role in years to come.

After all, when eventually bowing to demands that he clip his salary of €400,000 (far exceeding that of US President Barack Obama, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the combined salaries of the Italian and Spanish FAs) Delaney assured all that, in effect, Irish soccer should be pleased to have him at all.

"I was offered a job three times the salary that I'm currently on, and that's a fact," he revealed in 2013.

Whatever about domestic issues, Delaney's international experience should brook no arguments about his credentials to fill the current leadership vacuum.

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Despite being lampooned by disgraced former Fifa president Sepp Blatter when suggesting Ireland become a 33rd participant at World Cup 2010, he still managed to reveal to Ray D'Arcy last year that he secured a €5m loan from FIFA as a result of Ireland's World Cup qualifying play-off exit at the hands, literally, of France's Thierry Henry.

Some may suggest Delaney has not always had the most comfortable of co-existences with Irish politicians, most recently being upbraided by then-Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe for appearing on Labour TD Alan Kelly's election canvas in his home county of Tipperary.

He also faced a potential grilling on corporate governance in the wake of that controversial Fifa loan - but the enthusiasm for such an inquisition faltered for some reason.

Some claimed that TDs had been contacted beforehand, with Independent Tom Fleming claiming there were "overtures".

Notwithstanding this, the FAI receives more than twice the public funds as that garnered by the OCI, another nod to Delaney's outstanding stewardship, and is regularly audited by Sport Ireland.

Delaney's untrammeled leadership of one of Ireland's biggest sporting organisations, along with his international experience in ticketing for some of the world's biggest sporting events, surely reveals him to be an obvious candidate to lead the OCI from darkness into light.

But yet, Delaney remains, for now, an invisible presence.

Irish Independent

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