Wednesday 25 April 2018

Daniel McDonnell: Delaney admission raises more questions than it answers

John Delaney confirmed that the FAI came to a settlement with FIFA after Thierry Henry's handball
John Delaney confirmed that the FAI came to a settlement with FIFA after Thierry Henry's handball
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The confirmation that the FAI received money from Fifa in the wake of the Thierry Henry handball in 2009 has landed John Delaney in the middle of the global storm surrounding football governance. He may come to regret it.

Granted, there may be a school of thought which argues that collecting a substantial amount of cash for a poor refereeing decision is good business.

But after a week where he has vocally called for Sepp Blatter's departure and duly welcomed his resignation, the optics of admitting that the FAI accepted a loan to drop a legal case are not good.

Delaney now needs to clarify the basis for the legal challenge which led, in his words, to a "very legitimate agreement".

Global commentators are now wondering if teams that suffer on the wrong end of bad calls now have a lucrative precedent.

Closer to home, League of Ireland clubs that are on the receiving end of inaccurate calls from officials appointed by the Abbotstown authorities might feel they have grounds for complaint.

More seriously, Delaney has asserted over the last week that he presides over an association that is always up-front about its affairs.

"I don't know what more we can do in terms of being open and transparent," he said. "Our members are very happy with the way the association is being ran."

That may be so, yet there has been no comment on the public record from Delaney about this significant transaction until this year.

Fifa's statement says that the loan arising from the Henry complaint - which was designated for stadium construction - was written off after Ireland failed to make the 2014 World Cup.

Qualifying for major tournaments is extremely important to the FAI, especially given the bank debt they incurred from building the Aviva Stadium.

It is therefore intriguing to learn that, during Giovanni Trapattoni's final campaign, the FAI hierarchy had an inkling that the blow of missing out on Brazil would be cushioned by holding onto the Fifa money.

Delaney says he was bound by a confidentiality agreement so it is unclear the extent to which the members were aware of this clause or, indeed, the existence of any deal with Fifa. What's clear from the reaction is that fans are shocked. In the aftermath of Paris, the FAI CEO used emotive terms to explain why the Irish were pushing for a replay or a route back into the 2010 finals. "It's not about money," he said. "This is about sporting integrity."

Irish Independent

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