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Wednesday 13 November 2019

FAI get Uefa rap over tennis ball protest

Anyone for tennis? Ireland keeper Darren Randolph clears tennis balls from the Aviva Stadium pitch during last Tuesday's Euro 2020 qualifier
Anyone for tennis? Ireland keeper Darren Randolph clears tennis balls from the Aviva Stadium pitch during last Tuesday's Euro 2020 qualifier

Minster for Sport Shane Ross has finally broken his silence on the saga at the FAI as the organisation are likely to escape with just a fine after being charged by UEFA over the tennis ball protest during Tuesday's Euro 2020 qualifier at home to Georgia.

Fans at Lansdowne Road directed their anger at the FAI's former CEO John Delaney with a number of chants, while in the 33rd minute, dozens of tennis balls were thrown onto the field. The 33rd minute was picked to allude to the time when Delaney attempted to have Ireland admitted to the 2010 World Cup finals as the 33rd team.

Delaney is no longer CEO and now occupies a new position of Executive Vice President. His position and future with the FAI were discussed at a series of meetings of FAI officials this week, though it's likely that he will remain in his new role for now and will head an FAI delegation which appears before an Oireachtas committee on April 10.

Minister Ross spoke for the first time since the story broke, saying the €100,000 loan from Delaney to the FAI "raised serious questions about governance and financial controls in the FAI".

The head of the Leinster FA yesterday issued a statement, signed by five officials, delcaring that the embattled Delaney still had the support of the "grassroots" who "fully believe he is the person to continue his work with UEFA and FIFA matters in his new role as Executive Vice President".

Former internationals such as Richard Sadlier and Niall Quinn have been very critical of the new role for Delaney while former captain Liam Brady said change was needed at the top.

"Qualifying for Euro 2020 would be great but it's a sign of how bad things have become off the pitch that I would actually prefer change in the FAI to qualification, if the latter meant that the status quo in Abbotstown was maintained," Brady said.

Ireland players differed on the effect of the tennis ball protest but UEFA have taken note.

A UEFA statement said: "Disciplinary proceedings have been opened following the European Qualifiers Group D match between Republic of Ireland and Georgia (1-0), played on March 26.

"Charges against Republic of Ireland: Throwing of objects - Art. 16 (2) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations.

"The case will be dealt with by the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary on May 16."

UEFA have a range of punishments for national associations but while they have the power to close a section of a stadium, or order a game to be played behind closed doors, they are likely to give the FAI a rap on the knuckles and give them a fine.

The game was held up for four minutes, some players critical of the protest which forced the delay but Glenn Whelan said: "The fans are disgruntled, they have a right to protest."

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