herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

The lyrics are not the problem John, stick to singing in shower

"You had plundered many nations, divided many lands/You had terrorised their peoples, you ruled with an iron hand/And you brought this reign of terror to my land."

This is the chorus of the ballad Joe McDonnell, a song with an inescapably anti-British sentiment at its core, which was sung by the FAI's Chief Executive, John Delaney, in a pub last week.

Now there is no doubt that John is a breath of fresh air in corporate Ireland.

Amenable and devoid of airs or graces, he's a man who genuinely likes to engage with the people who pay his wages, unlike many other CEOs.

sue

But at times, John himself seems to forget that with his position comes responsibility, and media scrutiny.

Though he has since apologised, the manner with which this issue has been dealt with is far from impressive.

Firstly, when a respected British newspaper asked for a comment, the FAI's solicitors denied that it was him in the clip, and threatened to sue, something which could seriously tarnish the Association's reputation in the UK. Furthermore, John's own explanation for his performance shows a naivety on his part.

"It's a typically Irish thing we do," he explained. "We sing songs amongst a group and you expect that to be kept within the group. Unfortunately on occasions people use camera phones in a sly way when they are not in your company and then they try to make something bigger out of it."

John, unfortunately, was singing in a public bar, and the word "public" should remind him that, in the days of social media, nothing that goes on in pubs is private any more.

More pertinently, John doesn't seem to grasp that the issue is not whether and how he was filmed singing the song, or whether he agrees with all the sentiments of the song.

outrage

The problem is that he, as the Chief Executive of the FAI, sang it in the first place. If the head of the English FA had been caught singing an anti-Irish song, for example, there would have been public outrage, not least from the FAI.

Delaney has done an impressive job since he took over the FAI ten years ago, championing Irish soccer at grass roots, fighting to get a reduction in the debt owed for the Aviva Stadium, and convincing Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane to forge a managerial partnership.

But there's a time and a place for everything. Without turning into a bland, corporate bean counter, John should remember that, like it or not, he is not just another Irish soccer fan.

He might like to confining his singing to the shower, not the Bath.

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