Saturday 29 April 2017

FAI must learn that a happy house is about more than a nice front room

John Delaney: Hoping to be voted on UEFA executive committee today. Photo: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE
John Delaney: Hoping to be voted on UEFA executive committee today. Photo: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

There is a strong chance that John Delaney will today be voted onto the UEFA executive committee - the most powerful board in European football.

It's another step up the administrative ladder and a lucrative one, too.

The English FA recently told 'The Sunday Times' that David Gill received a payment of €100,000 per year for his work during his time on the elite body, while members of the committee get €300-a-day living allowance when they're on UEFA business. Delaney's FAI salary of €360,000 is already a bone of contention in Irish football circles.

If he is elected in Helsinki, the irony of the timing will be spectacular - the most powerful figure in the Irish game receiving an extra wage from UEFA in the week that, back home, our senior women's team reveal that they have to share tracksuits with underage teams.

When they fly into Dublin Airport after representing their country, the first job is to go into the toilets and change.

How has it come to this?

It's a mortifying revelation that should be embarrassing to the powerbrokers in the FAI.

Already this year, the association have been forced to address the issue of gender quotas, with the profile of their board coming under scrutiny.

Read more: ‘I hope John Delaney is aware of this’ – Ireland captain Emma Byrne calls on FAI chief to listen to women’s team

After all, the most significant change in recent years has been the raising of age limits to allow some long-standing servants prolong their stay on the main decision-making body.

One would expect the women's players' decision to go public with their frustrations would prompt urgent discussions at board level, although the FAI top brass are unlikely ever to be compared to the knights of the round table, much as it feels like some of them have been around since the days of King Arthur.

The klaxon call here is for change. It's quite extraordinary that the women have accepted the poor conditions for so long.

Emma Byrne hinted at dissatisfaction a couple of years back when their old €30 daily allowance was taken away, but she subsequently tried to play that down in a TV interview. It's clear that the players themselves don't want to be viewed as agitators; hence the seeking of representation from the PFAI to speak on their behalf.

The FAI want to engage with the squad directly, yet they have met with third parties acting for the men's team when it comes to bonus payments. Therefore, the precedent has been set.

The men's senior team are the main revenue-generator for the FAI and, with Aviva Stadium repayments a huge issue, no expense has been spared in the attempts to make them successful.

Given that qualification for major tournaments can be worth in excess of €10m, it's understandable that the FAI pour resources into this area.

But the cost cutting in other areas has left a sour taste. When the 'per diem' payments for the senior women and other international sides were taken away, the FAI were still able to prepare a games room for Ireland's Euro 2012 squad at their Sopot base which included a golf simulator.

It's a situation that is as absurd as League of Ireland clubs receiving prize-money that just about covers their entry fee.

The FAI does a lot of good work at grassroots level, but it's hard to square that with the frustrations of players who dedicate their lives to the sport for little or no reward.

The recent appointment of Colin Bell, a Champions League-winning manager, was outlined as a huge moment for the women's game in this country.

In recent years, the FAI has mastered the art of the marquee appointment. The association that consistently refers to the Irish football family can window-dress with the best of them, but a happy house is about more than an attractive front room.

Irish Independent

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