Friday 30 September 2016

Dissenting voices are not heard at well-choreographed FAI love-in

John Fallon

Published 01/08/2016 | 02:30

John Delaney during the FAI’s AGM in Clonmel. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
John Delaney during the FAI’s AGM in Clonmel. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

It was in keeping with how stage-managed FAI annual general meetings have become, only this particular attempt at glorifying the chief executive didn't quite carry the execution intended.

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"John (Delaney) has embellished all aspects of Irish football in Ireland and across Europe," said Gerry Tully, a delegate of the Roscommon League, in a broadcast from a microphone handed to him as part of a presentation item inserted on the agenda for Saturday's event.

The choice of verbiage was curious, considering how some of Delaney's words and actions have drawn ridicule beyond these shores, but it was sufficient for most of those in the room to rise from their seats to acknowledge their leader, whose work seems not only to be well-paid but appreciated. Bearing in mind just 125 legislators attended the yearly summit in Clonmel, the gesture isn't necessarily indicative of the feeling towards the Waterford man now 11 years at the helm.

Narrative

That the biggest announcement of the AGM was a development grant to the League of Ireland clubs, offering a quarter of Delaney's annual salary, dominated the narrative of the social media reaction amongst fans in that sector.

A high portion of eligible voters opt not to attend these summits anymore - hardly a surprise given their anaemic nature.

Since EGMs developed into an annual fixture to deal with any rule changes, the format and content have followed a familiar pattern whereby different speakers issue their updates in person or through a video message, the audience clap and lunch is served.

If anybody was so inclined to wonder, for example, who got the extra €2.6m in "exceptional salary costs" during 2015 for reaching Euro 2016, then they kept quiet and made do with their own guesswork.

The same mystery remains surrounding the debts of the association.

After the latest refinancing package was confirmed last month, delegates were informed the liabilities amounted to €40m. But does that include the €5m owed to UEFA, a separate debt revealed a year ago?

Financial director Eamon Breen claimed the new package with Bank of Ireland represented the best option available, but "confidentiality" prevented further details being revealed.

Exactly what interest rate they are being charged, for one, would broaden the picture, though it is definitely less than the 6.4 per cent paid during 2015 to the previous lender, Corporate Capital Trust (CCT).

That chunk of cash went some way to explaining the €5.1m spent on servicing the mortgage.

Delaney's pledge to have the association debt-free by 2020 has now altered to an objective, rather than a commitment.

Treasurer Eddie Murray acknowledged as much, admitting all liabilities may not be discharged by the target date.

UEFA's television rights deal will provide a stream of revenue, albeit the FAI can no longer broker their own packages for stand-alone matches, and their dip in sponsorship during 2015 illustrates that tickets sales and qualification bonuses are the main planks of income.

Both elements are unpredictable, emphasising the importance of the senior team enjoying a fruitful World Cup campaign once it kicks off next month.

Be it with their premium or general tickets, the FAI have had to learn way of getting prices right.

To deem Dublin's hosting of four European Championship finals matches in 2020 a cash-cow for the FAI is foolhardy. Staging the Europa League final in 2011 didn't benefit the association commercially and the same concept will apply if Ireland don't qualify.

"There's no net cost to the FAI and no great financial windfall for us," admitted Delaney two years ago when Dublin was named one of the 13 cites to host matches.

Double-job

Meanwhile, Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has ruled out allowing his Roy Keane double-job if he decides to step back into club management.

His assistant has expressed a wish to eventually return to the club circuit but he'll have do so after cutting his ties with Ireland.

"If you're going into to manage at club level, that's your job," said O'Neill. "You couldn't do the two. In one aspect, I'm quite pleased that Roy's name is being mentioned around again.

"It feels like he's really contributing. I would really be disappointed if he left at this stage but I don't want to hold anybody."

Irish Independent

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