Thursday 23 January 2020

Editorial: 'The FAI old guard deserves to be booted into touch'

John Delaney. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
John Delaney. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile


In football, everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team, wrote Sartre.

The French philosopher's mind would have boggled to cope with the concept of just how unmanageably complex things can become on your own side without any opposition, based on revelations at the FAI.

They say success is not final and failure not fatal but you'd wonder after the serpentine saga surrounding John Delaney's 15-year tenure at the top of Irish football.

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As the dust settles after the departure of Delaney, it has become clear that the association has liabilities of more than €55m.

He picked up a severance settlement which amounted to €462,000, including a pension payment. Football may be a funny old game but very few genuine fans will find anything amusing about this.

To exit and be rewarded with hundreds of thousands while auditors are unable to say if the governing body can continue as a going concern, given the enormity of its debt, seems monstrously unfair.

There will be many questions in the days ahead. Among them will be the association's actual survival. Football is notoriously ruthless when it comes to dispatching non-performing executives.

How things were allowed to descend to such a level without some kind of intervention is also something which will have to be examined. Taxpayers' money was swallowed in the seemingly bottomless pit. Racking up a debt of €50m does not happen overnight, so why are we only learning the full extent of the financial meltdown now? The organisation is facing having to remortgage its debt on the Aviva Stadium until 2034.

Bank loans of €28.2m are also in technical default as a result of restated 2017 financial statements. Delaney had an iron grip on the FAI - how things were allowed to deteriorate to such an extent will take some explaining.

It is grossly unjust jobs are on the line.

The thousands of volunteers who keep football alive across the country deserve so much better. The hundreds of thousands of loyal fans recognised around the world as being the world's greatest supporters have also grounds for feeling their fidelity has been insulted.

Yesterday, new "executive lead" Paul Cooke, said: "I think there's a past and a future and here today is a significant red line for potential sponsors..."

Few are bold enough to attempt to predict the future; but one certainty is that things will have to change radically at the FAI if it is to restore lost trust and credibility.

Sport is a results business, so a transformation in culture and personnel is inevitable.

State funding to the FAI has currently been suspended. Therefore it is difficult to argue with Sport Minister Shane Ross's conviction that time is up for the old guard of the FAI.

Irish Independent

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