By PJ Cunningham
John Delaney’s already damaged reputation is now in as the FAI has become the laughing stock of international sport after it was revealed that the association now owes €55m (£50m) and its auditors can’t guarantee it can continue as a going concern.
The fallout of what emerged from last week is that there is a distinct possibility that many of the 200 employees in the association could lose their jobs, while their former leader rides off into the sunset with the guts of a half a million euro (€462,000) settlement in his back pocket.
Delaney, you may remember, was one of the few FAI officials to emerge from the Saipan debacle with any sort of credit.
He was a young executive on the rise, and when the opportunity came down the road for him to take over the CEO role, he was the popular choice to do so.
Yes, there was always the suggestion that he knew how to harm an opponent’s candidacy as in the case of Brendan Menton, who many felt was both conscientious and competent – something that never was in great largesse around the FAI in its history.
Still Delaney came as a new broom and besides he was a proponent of seeing everything in the Genesis Report becoming a reality.
Talk is cheap, they say, and when it came to actually doing things like putting two independent directors onto the board to keep an eye on the internal workings of the organisation, well, JD wasn’t a fan of that route.
In fact, he didn’t walk the walk in many areas, although he somehow managed to keep influential commentators on his side.
At the weekend soccer pundit and former Millwall player Eamon Dunphy admitted that he had been duped, describing the Waterford man as “a discredited figure” in the eyes of Irish football fans.
In hindsight, we should have seen that Delaney’s claims were no more than a bottle of smoke when his plan to sell 10-year premium tickets for the Aviva Stadium not only stalled but never got out of the starting stalls.
Once the reality of this hit home in the teeth of the Celtic Tiger crash to a man trained as an accountant, he knew he had to keep outside questioning to the minimum, and also ensure that key jobs inside the organisation were given as rewards to those who were most loyal to him.
It worked for the best part of a decade but when annual meetings excluded the press and had ‘security’ shepherding in delegates to read a highly subjective spin on the state of the FAI nation, it was perhaps only a question of time before the house without foundation collapsed.
That came about, as we all know, earlier this year, when the Sunday Times exclusive showed that Delaney had loaned €100,00 to the association so that the food could be put on the table, so the speak, during a cash starved month in 2017.
His claim that he was only giving a dig out to his employer when they ran into a little bit of financial difficulty didn’t appear to be altruistic, as he attempted but failed to inject the newspaper from carrying the story.
This shone the spotlight glaringly into the affairs of the CEO and how he ran the organisation as a deep throat who tipped off the reporter on the first issue, followed on with further damaging details on how the CEO conducted his business.
Faced with this drip, drip damage and the fact that the FAI was summoned before the Oireachtas Committee, he pulled the last card he had at his disposal by declaring that he couldn’t talk to them on legal advice.
As it turned out, that was the day the politicians, the journalists and the football family, which Delaney loved to claim he was part of, said ‘enough is enough’.
Since then, he has disappeared from public view, working in the background to get his severance package, aware that the career he had foreseen for himself in UEFA was now also gone into the ether.
Donal Conway is to step down as President of the Football Association of Ireland at an EGM on January 25, 2020
Statement to follow… pic.twitter.com/VLKaAw2Gfz
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) December 6, 2019
Few will feel any great sympathy for a man who had the talent and the knowledge to make a success of the job, but fell for the old three-card trick way of getting results.
His legacy is a broken organisation which will take years to get back on its feet, while the thoughts of most decent people will be with the employees who took pay cuts and worked hard to keep the show that is the FAI on the road.
For a man who has his own issues with the public, Sports Minister Shane Ross has served his country well by insisting that all the old hands involved with Delaney need to resign before the association gets a green cent from government coffers.
Money talks, and in this instance, it has led to the announcement from the President of the FAI, Donal Conway, that he will resign at next month’s EGM.
This is the first shot of a new era. It needs to be ushered in quickly as the country’s biggest participation sport – yes soccer (football) has more than Gaelic football or hurling – will suffer most where Delaney proffered to be its biggest champion – at grassroots level.