Wednesday 21 February 2018

John Delaney 'surprised' and 'confused' by women's team's decision to hold press conference

FAI chief John Delaney
FAI chief John Delaney

John Fallon

FAI chief executive John Delaney has fanned the flames of the ongoing dispute with the women’s national team by claiming the association were “confused and surprised” about their decision to hold a press conference.

Delaney, whose €300 per day allowance in his new part-time role as UEFA executive committee member is precisely the same amount sought by the Irish squad for representing their country, was adamant the FAI’s resolution plan was the same before and after Tuesday’s unprecedented press conference at Liberty Hall.

Fourteen members of the squad turned up at SIPTU’s headquarters to outline a litany of grievances they had with the FAI but also the association’s point-blank refusal to deal with their representatives, the Players Football Association of Ireland (PFAI).

The items – such as a nominal match fee, reimbursement of lost earnings and access to a tracksuit of their own – were eventually acceded to be the FAI at a mediation hearing hosted by retired union leader, Peter McLoone at the Clarion Hotel in Liffey Valley late on Wednesday night when two more squad members joined the cause in solidarity.

Delaney didn’t attend the negotiations as he chose to remain in Helsinki after the UEFA executive committee vote but was in contact by telephone to give his blessing to the final package worth in the region of €100,000 per annum to the squad.

Like their manager Colin Bell, however, Delaney was swift to put the onus back on the players to follow their talk with action on the field - starting with Monday's friendly against Slovakia at Tallaght.

Ireland’s ability to end their qualification drought wasn’t being helped by the absence of basic conditions, according to captain and goalkeeper Emma Byrne, who admitted she was unaware of Delaney’s hefty €360,000 salary, a figure now boosted by €100,000 from his elevation to the UEFA’s committee.

“There’s no point going back over it because the matter is resolved now but what I will say is that last Sunday Peter McLoone had been proposed by us as a mediator to discuss on all of those issues,” Delaney outlined to Cork’s Red FM.

“There was the same result after the press conference. A lot of people in the FAI were really confused as to why the position we put to them (the players) on Sunday was accepted after the press conference. That was a surprise.

“We’ve spent a lot of money preparing teams for international football. What’s important is for this particular group of players is that they qualify for a major tournament, as our manager Colin Bell said yesterday.

“We’ve put a lot of resources, millions of euros, into the development of Irish football over last 10 years. The evidence is there.

“Our commitment to women’s football shouldn’t be questioned because I can see what we do.”

However, PFAI solicitor Stuart Gilhooly contested Delaney's claims on Twitter and said that the players agreed to a mediator on Monday on the condition that talks took place on Wednesday and would be resolved by Thursday.

"This is untrue. Players agreed Monday to mediator as long as took place Wednesday & finished Thursday. FAI refused," said Gilhooly.

During the same week of this embarrassing episode for the FAI, in which the stance of the women’s squad to threaten strike action was supported by James McClean, Paul McGrath and Katie Taylor, Delaney romped home at the UEFA executive committee election in Finland with the second highest vote total of the 11 nominees.

The Waterford man was swift to dismiss any notion that his new role would diminish in any way his highly-paid position with the FAI.

“It’s not just about going onto a committee to be there, it’s about achieving things for Irish and European football,” he insisted.

“Our next meeting, as I gather it, isn’t until May (next month). It gives me time to reflect on the meetings I’ve had over the last couple of months.

“I spent a lot of work in terms of visiting different associations, talking to them about their particular issues. I found out a lot about other football federations.

“I think it will only be good for Irish football. Most people know I work very long hours in my FAI role visiting clubs so there will be no great issues.

“Once you know UEFA commitments, I can work around what I’ve to with my own role. There are 15 other peoples on the committee who come from national associations and they too have to balance their commitments.”

While they too hail from different nations, the vast majority of the committee members are elected and honorary members of their respective host countries. Delaney is an unelected full-time employee of the FAI.

Des Casey, the only previous Irish representative, was at the time the FAI’s general secretary, an unpaid and elected role.

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