Thursday 22 August 2019

Daniel McDonnell: 'With governance of FAI sharply under the spotlight, Sport Ireland pushed the nuclear button'

Former chief executive John Delaney. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Former chief executive John Delaney. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Back in 2004, when the path was clearing for John Delaney to become CEO of the FAI, the immediate priority was restoring relations with the government.

Ahead of his appointment as interim boss, Delaney was part of an FAI delegation brought in for what was described as a 'dressing down' from then Minister for Sport John O'Donoghue.

Fran Rooney had just left the association, and the government were making noises about the FAI's failure to implement the Genesis Report that was commissioned in the aftermath of Saipan.

One TD had even called for a Public Accounts Committee to conduct an audit into the use of public funds.

Executive Vice President John Delaney with FAI president Donal Conway (right) at the game against Gibraltar. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Executive Vice President John Delaney with FAI president Donal Conway (right) at the game against Gibraltar. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The reportage at the time suggested that politicians welcomed the idea of Delaney coming in as Rooney's replacement because he was someone they could work with.

It was about building bridges. Suspending funding to the FAI was always the nuclear option, the step that no government or statutory body ever wants to take because of the harm it can do to volunteers and projects on the ground.

And the FAI made it through that period with Delaney at the helm, even if it they didn't quite adopt all of the Genesis recommendations - a point that has been made on a number of occasions during a period of uncertainty that is a throwback to the start of the Waterford man's CEO journey.

With the governance of the FAI sharply under the spotlight, Sport Ireland did push that nuclear button earlier today.

Questions: John Treacy and Kieran Mulvey of Sport Ireland at Leinster House. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Questions: John Treacy and Kieran Mulvey of Sport Ireland at Leinster House. Photo: Gerry Mooney

In doing so, they brought this crisis enveloping Irish football to a whole new level. It's a story that has piqued interest outside of Ireland, because of the FAI Executive Vice President's standing within UEFA and the talks about a 2030 World Cup bid with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This is a move that sends a statement and it goes beyond the suspension of the 50pc of funding that the FAI have yet to draw down this year, a figure worth somewhere in the region of €1.35m.

It might be a small amount of money in the context of the association's overall turnover of circa €50m but their margins are limited as they continue to pay back Aviva Stadium debt, a constant burden over the last decade.

Funding from Sport Ireland helps to deliver worthy projects around the country. Indeed, these are some of the initiatives that have presented the FAI in a very favourable light.

Delaney has received support from small clubs around the country who have cited his influence in delivering grants for their club.

There is no doubt that he has devoted time to this area but, in quite a number of these instances, the FAI are essentially deciding how to distribute state funding that comes their way. They might cut the ribbon, but they don't necessarily source the cheque.

Now, the well is essentially drying up because of how the FAI hierarchy has managed a situation which shone a light on their practices. Normal order will only be restored when the FAI apply a semblance of order.

This is history repeating.

Read more here:

Sport Ireland announce decision to 'suspend and withhold future funding to FAI' Now the FAI casts doubt on Delaney's €100k 'loan' 'John Delaney doesn’t need an inquiry to feed him the answer' - RTE panel slam FAI in wake of funding suspension

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