Wednesday 18 October 2017

Comment: Secrecy, security and silence to the fore at FAI AGM

CEO John Delaney receives a standing ovation from delegates in Sligo.

FAI Chief Executive John Delaney, speaking during the Football Association of Ireland AGM. Clarion Hotel, Sligo. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
FAI Chief Executive John Delaney, speaking during the Football Association of Ireland AGM. Clarion Hotel, Sligo. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Paul Hyland

Paul Hyland

The FAI threw a security blanket around the Clarion Hotel in Sligo though nobody really knew why. Maybe they thought that Al Qaeda were in town.

Or maybe it had something to do with rumours about a planned protest by disgruntled fans from the Aviva Stadium singing section which never materialised.

Perhaps CEO John Delaney was worried that Sepp Blatter might turn up looking for his money back.

He spoke about the €5m payment from FIFA again and remains unapologetic about taking what amounted to hush money from Blatter.

"It was a good business deal for the Association. I wish we had got more," he said.

As always, the AGM was an exercise in box-ticking. Delegates stuck their hands up a few times, watched a couple of videos, listened to some speeches and then had their lunch. Same as it ever was.

Read more: Martin O’Neill hints at longer stay for Ireland rebuilding task

They listened to Delaney give a rousing pat on the back to the Association and then some delegates rose to give him a standing ovation though many did not.

Not one delegate spoke from the floor about problems facing the game in Ireland. Nobody asked a question. Everything is wonderful.

If any of the delegates were worried about the stubbornly high debt on the Aviva or the FAI's difficult financial position, you would never have guessed.

If any one of them felt pain over the League of Ireland's ongoing struggle to survive or the national senior teams's worrying decline, it didn't show.

And if delegates were concerned about the fact that our best young footballers are no longer good enough to attract the attention of the biggest clubs in England, nobody mentioned it.

"Some suggest that all debates should happen here," said Delaney. "The reality is, as we all know, the affiliates who run the game are making decisions on a weekly basis. If this wasn't working, I'm sure delegates would let us know."

Read more: 'Leicester is old news' - Martin O'Neill reaffirms Irish commitment, but remains coy on future

Fair enough but no debates at all? Not one?

Normally at a gig like this, there's a facility for people to raise issues under Any Other Business. They don't even bother to put that on the agenda.

During voting, the top table asked for people in favour but didn't bother to find out if anyone was against or abstaining. Unanimous votes.

Sure everything is grand.

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