Monday 24 October 2016

Aidan Fitzmaurice: John Delaney interview raises more questions than answers

John D
John D

WITH all due respect, as Tony Soprano likes to say, to Ray Darcy, the Kildare man's afternoon show on RTE Radio One is usually mild-mannered stuff.

Yesterday, we had jaw-dropping.

John Delaney's 18-minute interview with Darcy was astonishing for a number of reasons. And not good ones. And if the FAI CEO accepted a slot on national radio to answer questions about how FIFA money was routed through an Irish-based subsidiary, Delaney left the radio building in RTE with another stack of questions to deal with.

Many dedicated fans of the national team, especially those who travel to away games, will be puzzled by Delaney's revelation to Darcy that the 'behind-closed-doors' game played at Lansdowne Road stadium yesterday, from which all sections of the media were strictly barred without exception, was watched by some hand-picked supporters who acted as "50-year-old ball boys", two of those supporters named on national radio by Delaney.


Fans' group YBIG, who only last week issued a statement claiming that the FAI had yet to address their "systemic failures concerning ticket allocation for the game in Celtic Park" will surely be keen to find out how the "ball boys" were selected to get one of those lucky golden tickets to get past the security cordon and watch the behind-closed-doors game against Northern Ireland?

Questions may also come from abroad, from East Timor (Delaney told a bizarre story involving the East Timorese FIFA delegate, Sepp Blatter and a sword) and Europe, Delaney's UEFA colleagues who are, in his words, "under suspicion" arising from the FIFA scandal and who Delaney described as "the Cypriot, the Spaniard and Turkish guy", like the cast-list of a bad mafia movie.

But in revealing the details of a €5million payoff from FIFA to the FAI, in the aftermath of the Thierry Henry handball incident of 2009, Delaney has opened a can of worms which is now impossible to close.

Delaney said that the payment was "an agreement... not to proceed with a legal case against FIFA because of how the World Cup hadn't worked out for us because of the Henry handball". He added that the agreement was "legitimate" and "good for the FAI".

That has puzzled FIFA, who last night issued a statement stating that the money was "a loan of $5 million for the construction of a stadium in Ireland" which was then written off after Ireland failed to qualify for the last World Cup.

Which stadium in Ireland was built with this money was never clarified until last night (with the FAI saying in a statement that the payment went "into the Aviva Stadium project") and the sum previously appeared in FAI accounts, with no explanation, as an "exceptional item".

Delaney has also sparked a massive debate, and massive concern, among the football community, by admitting that the FAI threatened legal action when an on-field decision during a game went against them. The basis of football has always been that matters are won and lost on the field of play and not in the courts.

Again, in Delaney's words, the payment was made "not to proceed with a legal case... because of how the World Cup hadn't worked out for us".

Leagues and cup competitions across the country now wonder if, the next time a linesman fails to spot a handball and a goal is scored, their club can threaten to "proceed with a legal case" until they get their way or get paid. Any club with a grievance over a match official's decision now has a clear path to cash, or the courts.

Armenia, denied a legitimate goal in a qualifier against Ireland which could have sent them to Euro 2012 instead of the Irish side, should now "proceed with a legal case". Money for old rope.

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