Saturday 25 January 2020

Drawing line under Delaney years will prove very difficult

John Delaney. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
John Delaney. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The figures don't lie. Not now, anyway.

After a day of horrific revelations in Abbotstown, it's easy to make the case that the John Delaney led regime is the worst thing that has ever happened to Irish football.

All of those who helped to prop it up should be queueing up to say sorry to the staff and the sportspeople that will suffer as a consequence.

The unravelling of the spin and the spoof, the bullshit and the bluster, brings to mind an Oireachtas Committee hearing in January 2017.

Delaney was given a friendly reception in the corridors of political power, as he did until the very end. Successive sports ministers were allies that supported him in the face of criticism, instead of exploring if there was logic in it. It must be remembered that figures like Shane Ross and Brendan Griffin are trying to cast themselves as the solution when they were actually a significant part of the problem.


But in January 2017, Catherine Murphy broke free from the orgy of backslapping to actually ask some pertinent questions about the governance of the FAI and, more specifically, the handling of the AGM, an event notable for the absence of discourse. Press conferences were binned for a couple of years because negativity was unwelcome at this good news story.

Delaney was on message on this Dáil date.

"In response to Deputy Murphy's questions, sometimes what someone may read is not always the way it is in reality," said the FAI chief executive.

"Perhaps some of the Deputy's impressions were formed through media reports. We publish our accounts. We hand them to the media on the given day. Our accounts are freely available to anybody who wants to see them."

We should be grateful that these words are lodged on the public record. In a strange way, there was a truth contained within the answer, just not in the way it was intended.

Sometimes what someone may read is not always the way it is in reality. That's the FAI accounts of that era in a nutshell. We know the reality now. The surplus that wasn't a surplus. The directors fees that didn't detail all of the fees paid to the main director. The board-sanctioned contracts that members of the board didn't really know very much about.

The AGM gatherings really did embody what the FAI was all about. There were security staff manning car parks and hotel entrances, ushering journalists through side doors and fire exits to avoid contact with the general membership. But the real threat to the health of the Association was in the room all along; the dubious information that was meekly accepted as fact.

There should be embarrassment and anger amongst the membership that asked no questions. It's only a few short months since a number of provincial leagues and Associations were sending out missives declaring Delaney as the FAI's greatest appointment.

FAI President Donal Conway has done the right thing by stepping down from his post. John Earley, the other remaining board member who sat on Delaney's top table, should do the decent thing and follow suit.

It's regrettable that the former Honorary Secretary, Michael Cody, Delaney's strongest crutch, was never put in the spotlight and asked for his insights.

That was an oversight by the Oireachtas Committee when they sent their guest list ahead of April's hearing.

Eddie Murray's contributions were the most illuminating aspect of that exercise. When the man charged with the role of Treasurer isn't sure about the number of bank accounts, then you've got a problem.

That was the beginning of the end for the old FAI but there's a road to travel before we can declare that a new version has been born.

Drawing a line under the Delaney years will be difficult because the FAI are going to have to live with the consequences for so long.

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