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Aidan Fitzmaurice: 'Irish football was John Delaney's starting point, Europe his big stage. Now it's gone from his grasp'

Aidan Fitzmaurice


Former FAI CEO John Delaney

Former FAI CEO John Delaney

Former FAI CEO John Delaney

And in the blink of an eye he was gone.

It took the person working in UEFA's IT department just seconds yesterday morning to remove the photograph and profile of John Delaney from their website, confirming that the former FAI CEO was no longer a member of the Executive Committee (ExCo) of European football's governing body, Delaney resigning the post which he had hoped to hold onto until 2021.

He didn't leave without a fight, though. The media release issued by UEFA, confirming his long-expected departure, listed his achievements.

"During his time on the Executive Committee, John Delaney played a leading role in helping UEFA to achieve many things," UEFA said.

"He was instrumental in the expansion of the EURO to 24 teams, which proved such a success in 2016.

"Several teams that may not otherwise have qualified proved that they have a contribution to make on the biggest stage, with Wales’ run to the semi-finals and Iceland’s elimination of England standing out as examples of this," UEFA added.

It's believed that the press statement with the list of his successes was key to him resigning from UEFA now, a core demand by Delaney's party to prevent a scenario where UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin had to force him out.

On paper, he leaves UEFA with praise attached to his name and with good grace.


UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin. Photo: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin. Photo: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin. Photo: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Iceland's football fans and players will be puzzled to see their Euro 2016 success against England credited to an Irish administrator.

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UEFA's words will have grated on many ears in Ireland, especially those FAI staff members who fear for their jobs, having been warned that the financial situation in Abbotstown, Delaney's legacy to the game here, will mean "pain" for them in the short term.

But it was a pill UEFA had to swallow to rid themselves of the troublesome Irishman.

The loss of his status in Europe was expected – Delaney has not attended any of the three ExCo meetings which have been held since the dam burst on him, and the FAI, in March.

But while his FAI job was the sporting equivalent of what politicians here would call the 'chicken and chips' circuit, Europe was haute cuisine, the arena where Delaney wanted to impress, to excel.

Irish football was his starting point, Europe his big stage.

And now it's gone from his grasp. Delaney may work in sport, or in football again, but not in Europe.

His resignation from UEFA, after a period of months where he was in cold storage, asked not to attend ExCo meetings, is the coup de grace for his career in football.

When Delaney was elected in April 2017, the reaction from official channels here was beyond gushing, senior figures queuing up to acclaim Delaney's ascension to UEFA's high office with comments which might cause them embarrassment today.

Good reason to list them, so, as ministers Shane Ross and Patrick O’Donovan, and Kieran Mulvey of Sport Ireland all poured out honey-soaked words.

He would effectively serve on that committee for less than half of the four-year term.

Early on in his time at UEFA's top table, senior figures at UEFA HQ had doubts about Delaney's manner. A figure in the Irish game this week recalled a conversation he had with one of the key ExCo members.

"Soon after John came in I had to take him aside for a quiet word. I had to tell him 'you don’t bring your girlfriend to work'," the UEFA figure said, ExCo members puzzled by Delaney's habit of having his partner, Emma English, attending official events.

There seems to be a large gap between how Delaney felt he was perceived in UEFA circles, and the reality of how he was seen in Europe: a sporting Phil Hogan.

And UEFA are so relieved to be rid of him that they issued a press statement which is truly bizarre. A small price to pay, they'll argue.

What will irk Delaney most of all is that he will play no part at the major events which he claims to have brought to Ireland.

He was head of UEFA's youth committee when the U-17 European Championship finals were hosted by Ireland last year, and Delaney spoke at the tournament draw in April, but by the time the competition started in May the pressure on him was so intense that he did not attend any games, not even the ones played in his native Waterford.

He is not expected to attend any of the four Euro 2020 matches in Dublin.

And it's not known when he will be seen at a major sporting event again, the only sightings of Delaney in public in Ireland coming at two recent funerals for members of the football community.

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