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Thursday 27 April 2017

Delaney's rise through the ranks of FAI and OCI

FAI chief John Delaney. Photo: Sportsfile
FAI chief John Delaney. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

John Delaney is one of the highest profile figures in Irish sport - and one of the highest earners, with his €360,000 salary reflecting his status within his own jurisdiction.

The Waterford man came to prominence in 2002 during another Irish soap opera – the Saipan row between Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy that overshadowed Ireland’s contribution to the World Cup.

 

Delaney, then the FAI’s treasurer, was the safe pair of hands at home and he led calls for a review of the association’s affairs in the aftermath. His steady rise up the ranks continued in 2004 when he was appointed interim CEO of the FAI after the departure of Fran Rooney. He was appointed on a full-time basis the following year and has stayed in control for over a decade.

It has been a rocky ride, although Delaney has always retained the support of a core group of supporters who have carried him through the choppiest waters.

In the football community, Delaney has always been a divisive figure. His fans would argue that he has modernised the FAI by growing sponsorship, in addition to having a big role in the construction of the Aviva Stadium and successfully lobbying on the European stage to bring major events to Dublin including the 2011 Europa League final.

His detractors point to the disappointing sale of corporate tickets for the Aviva, which has left the FAI with substantial bank debt and contributed to cutbacks across Irish football. In that context, Delaney’s wage packet – which at one stage was at €450,000 – is a source of contention. He earns more than three times the amount of money than the League of Ireland champions receive in prize money from the association.

Delaney angered fans of the local league in an October 2014 interview where he described it as the “difficult child”.

In the seven months that followed, however, Delaney’s profile outside of Ireland grew for all of the wrong reasons.

First, he was filmed singing the republican ballad ‘Joe McDonnell’ after an Ireland friendly with the USA in Dublin.

An FAI spokesman initially told a website that played the clip that it wasn’t Delaney in the video. Delaney later admitted it was him and apologised for any offence caused.

The following summer, Delaney made headlines when he admitted that the FAI had secured payment from Fifa – later revealed to be €5m – in the form of a loan, as a payback for Thierry Henry’s handball, which prevented Ireland from making the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Delaney opened up on the subject in an interview with Ray D’Arcy, where he described a confrontation with Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

“I told him how I felt about him,” said Delaney. “There were some expletives used and we came to an agreement.”

In the interview with D’Arcy, Delaney also detailed a remarkable exchange with Blatter where he felt that the shamed Fifa boss was eyeing up his girlfriend Emma English.

But, in the aftermath of the Fifa furore, Delaney kept a lower profile. He was photographed with English and Pat Hickey at this summer’s European Championships.

Delaney was nominated for the Olympic Council of Ireland’s (OCI) second vice-president position in 2005 and, as he was unopposed, he was elected at the OCI’s AGM that year.

At July’s FAI AGM, he stressed that the association could meet its target of being debt-free by 2020, the year that Pat Hickey – who viewed Delaney as the natural candidate to replace him – thought he should assume control at the head of the OCI.

Irish Independent

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