Sunday 19 January 2020

John Delaney: In his own words

John Delaney leaves the FAI offices in Merrion Square having been confirmed as the new CEO in March 2005. Photo: Sportsfile
John Delaney leaves the FAI offices in Merrion Square having been confirmed as the new CEO in March 2005. Photo: Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice outlines the key pronouncements of John Delaney’s 15-year stint at the top of the FAI. They offer a fascinating glimpse into the rise and fall of a very public sports administrator.


"I have a number of immediate priorities and these include advancing the organisational structural change, investing heavily in our relationship with our stakeholders and beginning the process of developing a solid business plan for the FAI. I would like us to get back to being a quite business-like organisation, to get back to basics, back to football, back to what we do best."

- Delaney after he was appointed interim CEO, November 2004

"In all the organisations I've worked with, I've never seen so many checks and balances within a structure. We've been audited by our own independent auditors, Deloitte and Touche. We've had the second independent audit from the Irish Sports Council and nothing untoward is there and I find it very hard to understand why these questions are still being asked given all the checks and balances that we have."

- November 2004


"The board's view was that the decline in FIFA world rankings, UEFA standings and non-qualification for the World Cup 2006 were key issues. The downward trend in our rankings and seedings has been very disappointing.'' - After Brian Kerr was dismissed, October 2005

"If everyone likes you, you're not doing your job. I'll be judged on whether we achieve our aims or not, on whether the FAI is a better place for my time in it. The members asked me to take this job, I didn't ask anyone could I take it. It was a big decision for me to make, and I took a number of weeks to consider it. I am on a five-year contract and I have a list of objectives, which I will look at in four years' time to see whether I want to continue or not."

- November 2005


"What is important now, after making this appointment, is everybody gets behind Steve to bring the good times back. I'm certain he is the man to do it.''

- January 2006, after hiring Steve Staunton as Ireland manager

"We were always very difficult to play against, especially at Lansdowne Road. Teams feared us. They hated coming to Dublin, but that had gone."

- On Brian Kerr's Ireland side, February 2006

"Based on our projections, we will have €30m in the bank by the end of 2007, irrespective of whether we sell premium seats or corporate boxes in the interim. We have reserves of €12m at the moment and, if we sell Merrion Square and add it to the German television rights and the four World Cup qualifiers at Croke Park next year, we expect to have €30m to go towards the stadium."

- On FAI's finances, March 2006 "If you look at the year before last, the total prize money for the league was €98,000. In the proposal that we have set out for next year it will be €803,000. I hope that in three of four years, when we look back on today, we'll say that this was a new dawn."

- On a new-look LOI, May 2006

"The board and the family of football are supportive of Steve's appointment."

- After defeat to Cyprus, October 2006

"I've no problem saying I was an important part of Stephen's appointment. I'm CEO, but I was only an equal part in his appointment and the general family of the game were hugely supportive."

- On Staunton, October 2006

"I knew when I took the role there would be criticism. You're never going to get 100 per cent support behind you no matter who you are. You see that in every walk of life. But I know that, for what we're trying to do today, we've a hell of a lot of support. If you get on with your job you won't have to worry. If you do it well you should never be afraid. The facts will always look after themselves."

- October 2006


"Our commitment to the stadium is €60m and we will meet that comfortably."

- March 2007

"Stephen and his management team should be given the time to see the fruits of their endeavours over the past year and a half."

- On Steve Staunton, September 2007


"He seems to be very good at deflecting from his own issues. He should get on with doing his own job. We don't comment on where they are in the league."

- On Roy Keane, February 2008

"Let's kill a lot of myths and a lot of rubbish appearing in the last couple of weeks, in particular Olivia Mitchell's claims which are wrong, false, inaccurate and untrue. If we had to write the cheques tomorrow, the credit line and the ability is there to pay. Full stop."

- On claims by Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell that costs for the Aviva Stadium had risen from €365 million to €466m, July 2008

"To meet our financial contribution of €74m, we do not have to sell all 10,000 seats or the boxes, because we already have close to €20m in our bank account."

- On ticket sales for Aviva Stadium, July 2008.

"The research we did a period ago is very good. If you want to buy a premium seat or a box in Lansdowne Road, the only place you can get it now is through Irish football because the rugby ones are sold out. So they will be a rare commodity and we're confident that there won't be any great problems. But if we had to write the €74m cheque tomorrow, we could write it tomorrow."

- On ticket sales for the Aviva Stadium, July 2008

"There are 33,000 millionaires in this country, and there's a database of 80,000 people that we're chasing. We only need 3,000 sales because on average our research says that each buyer will purchase three to four seats."

- Vantage launch, September 2008

"We took in €15m worth of orders in the last month, and the last month has not been a great month. I don't want to get into comparisons with the IRFU. They have done their business very well and we have gone our way."

- November 2008

"If we sell 60 per cent of the premium seats and boxes, that's the business model that will afford us to get through very, very comfortably."

- On pricing for Vantage Club, November 2008


"I think we've always made it clear that we have our finances in place and I don't know anybody who has got into a stadium who didn't have their finances in place. We're meeting our commitments every month."

- On sales for the Aviva Stadium, March 2009

"We met the board membership and they're fully supportive of the action we took. In fairness, even at that meeting, it was suggested that we change the rule completely and hand out accounts on the day of the AGM. But the broad feeling within the game is that we acted responsibly with what we had to do. We didn't want two weeks of our accounts being trawled through the media."

- Defending decision not to release accounts (which showed a €16m loss) in advance of AGM, July 2009


"We had a profit, as you know, in 2009. I think we'll make a break-even figure or very close to it in 2010, with the changes we've made, what I would call very prudent changes. We'll make a profit next year and we will be out of debt on the stadium by 2020. Absolutely. No question."

- November 2010


"Thank you, thank you for your support for our country, our country, to follow our team, you're absolutely f**king brilliant. Get behind the team on Thursday, ye were f**king magnificent, magnificent last night, I am sorry the team couldn't do, couldn't do what you wanted them to do but get behind them on Thursday."

- 3am speech to Irish fans in Sopot, Poland, June 2012

"When I took over the association, there was a lot of instability in the organisation, there were many people speaking on behalf of the association. I now speak on behalf of the organisation. There's a board of ten, we've long discussions at board meetings. There's a strong executive, who put positions to me. I listen very strongly. There's a good corporate governance in place."

- July 2012


"I was offered a job on three times my salary that I am currently on (€340,000) and that's a fact. Members of the board, I brought it to their attention but I didn't want the job, I am very happy in this job."

- March 2013

"I have said things in the past that I regret, that I said about Roy and he probably would as well. The good news now is that we are ringing each other every day. This is about the national team and no one person is bigger than the national team, not Roy Keane, not John Delaney, not Martin O'Neill."

- November 2013


"We had to find €95m out of a cost of a €411m project. We found it. We owed about €50m out of a commitment of €95m on a project worth €411m... that's not bad. If the whole country had been like that, then maybe we wouldn't have ended up in the mess we are in."

- April 2014

"We did restructure the debt and it's a very good deal for the association. I'll say one thing, Dermot Desmond and Garrett Kelleher were very helpful in opening doors for us."

- April 2014

"We can be free of debt by 2020. But that's a decision for us."

- April 2014

"My employers pay me a salary and they are happy to pay it. I took a couple of pay cuts and that's fine. I've been offered bigger salaries to move elsewhere."

- April 2014

"When he comes up give me a shout. I am off to meet the Queen too tomorrow, don't forget that."

- Speaking by phone to unknown person in the John The Baptist documentary, September 2014

"When I first came in in 2001 as treasurer, I said to a couple of people, 'this place is a mess'. There was so much difficulty, infighting, turmoil, grabs for power."

- September 2014

"Roy is entitled to his opinion, that wouldn't have been the prevailing opinion at the time, a lot of people felt that Brian Kerr's time with the Irish team was up. I agree with him on one thing. He said he should have been captain and he's right, he should have been captain. Had he captained that team, maybe we would have got to the World Cup."

- October 2014

"I'm sorry if I offended anybody in any way but it's not like this was done, sang for the public. It was someone who was not in my company who taped this."

- On the singing of 'Joe McDonnell' ballad, November 2014


"In 2009, I called him an embarrassment to FIFA and an embarrassment to himself. He called me over about that, and I said it to him across a table, with one or two expletives. He said, 'No one speaks to me like that' and I said, 'I do'."

- On Sepp Blatter, July 2015

"He met Emma, my partner, there recently and he stared at her for seven or eight seconds and said, 'I approve of your new girlfriend'. I just asked him to move on. It was an extraordinary moment."

- On Sepp Blatter, July 2015

"I never got a love for the game from him [Blatter], it was all politics, how money could be dispersed, all about him. He's the best at divide and conquer I have seen in my lifetime."

- On Sepp Blatter, July 2015


"As the election comes and people get near to making decisions, I think it's always important to have a minister, irrespective of what party you represent, in your county - because, ultimately, people deliver. Alan is in a position to help the county. That's my message - thank him for the support of the soccer clubs and, hopefully, when the election is coming, people remember that."

- Backing Labour TD Alan Kelly, January 2016

"Approved financial measures have reduced the overall FAI capital debt to €40m. In addition, an interest rate reduction from the previous loan arrangement has been negotiated, resulting in major savings on an annual basis."

- July 2016

"I had no knowledge or involvement in anything to do with tickets for the Rio games. This warrant was withdrawn 10 days ago. The Brazilian police have never made any contact with me in relation to this issue."

- On ticketing scandal involving OCI, September 2016

"You would hope that Dalymount Park would be completed or nearly completed by 2020."

- November 2016


"We took over clubs with a collective loss of €7m and they are now at about break-even and there will be a profit this year because Dundalk has had such a great year."

- On League of Ireland, January 2017

"Sometimes what someone may read is not always the way it is in reality, so perhaps some of the Deputy's impressions were formed through media reports. Our accounts are freely available to anybody who wants to see them."

- Reacting to questions at an Oireachtas hearing from Catherine Murphy TD, January 2017

"We've come through the most challenging of financial times. We need the collective to be strong and unified. To make the next step, all the stakeholders need to work in tandem. We should be proud of where our game sits right now."

- At FAI AGM July 2017 (three months after he made €100,000 loan to FAI)


"He's been fantastic, he's a big supporter of the FAI, he's going to be into the future as well in other ways. But I think at this particular juncture, we're strong enough to stand on our own feet. I knew a while back that this would come to an end. We knew before we entered negotiations with Martin and Roy that this was the case, so we have been able to address our stadium debt. Our stadium debut was up around €70m at one stage, it's a lot less now, our interest payments are a lot less."

- On ending of Denis O'Brien's funding of FAI to pay wages of senior international managers, March 2018

"We have said in the past that we can do it and we are demonstrating how we can. You might not like it lads at some stage to hear that, but they are the facts. Okay? The message we want clearly out of today at a very simple level is that the debt was €70m, it's below €30m today, it will be below €20m next year and it's within our capacity next year to be debt free by 2020."

- Speaking to media on FAI accounts, July 2018

"We get on very well with a lot of supporters' clubs. There would be a time to reflect in terms of getting unity back into Irish football, I wouldn't be happy that anybody would be negative towards the association or the team and there will be a time, when things settle down, when we need to heal some of those. If supporters want to voice their opinions, I'm not going to prevent them."

- On an anti-Delaney banner being confiscated by security in Denmark ahead of a Nations League game, November 2018


"Mistakes were made, pricing was made on solid advice but the pricing was wrong, the recession began to bite and lessons have been learned this time, pricing is realistic. It's a good price and it's good value. €5,000 for 10 years is great value.The ambition is to sell just short of 4,000 premium seats which will raise €12m."

- New Ireland season ticket scheme, February 2019

"The ambition is to clear the Aviva debt which currently stands at €28m and it's still within our compass to clear that by end of 2020."

- February 2019

"I confirm that I made a once-off bridging loan to the Association to aid a very short-term cash flow issue. This is the only occasion on which I provided the Association with a short-term loan."

- March 2019

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