For all involved in Irish football, the events of the last number of weeks have seen the beginning of a seismic shift in the game in this country.
Stellar and commendable journalism from a host of Irish publications, most notably from Sunday Times writer Mark Tighe, has seen a poisoned regime on the brink of a complete and utter overhaul.
On Monday, the FAI confirmed that John Delaney would be stepping away from his role within the organisation, pending an independent investigation of course, while Minister Shane Ross outlined that all of the board would be resigning come July.
Former Everton and Ireland midfielder Gareth Farrelly is well aware of the debt of gratitude Irish football owes to journalism. He is well aware that the commendable actions of many have been vital in the last month.
“I have huge respect for what has been done over the last few weeks,” he tells Pundit Arena.
Now though, Farrelly feels, as the dust begins to settle on a plethora of statements and Oireachtas Committees, is the perfect time to keep the extended level of scrutiny on the FAI up. Strike, as the saying goes, while the iron is hot.
“The challenge now is in an Oireachtas meeting you’ve had so much said over a period of hours,” said Farrelly.
“I think you need to try and consolidate and look back at all the different things that were said so obviously the fact that the board are looking at stepping down, all of them, is an incredibly positive thing but then the caveat to that is there is some talk that they may seek reelection again.
“I think there’s a lot of things now that need to be clarified as the dust starts to settle a little.
“Even from a journalistic point of view I have huge respect for what has been done over the last few weeks but at this time, this isn’t the time to relax, it is as important now to maintain a level of scrutiny and keep a watching brief with regards to all of the different investigations and what’s actually going on.
“What the terms of reference are in those investigations and to look to be kept informed to the best that anybody can be.”
The Sunday Times also broke a recent story which detailed that Delaney had spent €40,000 on the FAI credit card over six months in 2016 on a host of luxuries which included the likes of duty-free purchases at the airport, executive dry-cleaning services and five-star hotels, among other things.
The former Premier League midfielder, who now operates as a lawyer in England, believes that a full forensic audit is required to uncover the extent of Delaney’s spending and expenses but also feels that ticket allocation is something that needs to be looked in to in this once in a lifetime opportunity.
“I feel that that should include ticket allocations for any given game because that’s a form of currency as well.
“People will have used that for free tickets, tickets for friends, tickets for sponsors as a means of possibly benefitting themselves at a later stage and I think that’s a form of currency that should be looked at in detail.
“You’re only going to get an opportunity like this once and I think people deserve to know the absolute detail of all of these things that have gone on for such a period of time.
“What’s happened so far has to be commended. It’s exceptional but I think there are far more questions that need to be answered and should be answered. “
One of the questions which has arisen in light of the news of the board stepping away is, as it so often tends to be, ‘what’s next?’
The immediate look toward the brighter day.
Farrelly believes though that “consolidating” and “taking stock” are vital in the plan going forward, and the choices for the future must not be rushed.
“For me it isn’t straight forward, this is what we naturally do; As soon as there’s a scandal or as soon as something happens we move onto who is next in line, who is the best person and I think that is something that needs to be well thought out.
“I don’t think it’s as straight forward as people say.
“Ireland is blessed with some incredibly talented people and I think the people who will be tasked with selecting those people who will occupy those positions, not that they have a luxury now but they have time and they should take that time now to actually properly scrutinise and interview and meet with people that they think would offer value and potential and all of the opportunity that comes with this.
“A lot of people have written that this is an opportunity and it is an opportunity that only comes across very rarely because when a corrupt regime or empire is brought down there’s a vacuum there and within that vacuum now is the opportunity to consolidate, take stock, speak to different people and then look at people you might want to speak to, people who have a similar expertise, people who might have been involved in a similar level but I think there’s an opportunity for a multitude of stakeholders to be involved in that.”
One thing he does believe is vital, however, is player representation on the future board.
“I think there has to be player representation in that because I think the PFAI have been incredibly vocal for a long time and have taken different stands at different times and I think there’s good people that have the best interests of Irish football at heart.
“So I think it’s important, I’m reluctant for people to throw names around and canvass already, I think the positive thing now is with the seismic element of what’s happened nobody will be putting immediate pressure on saying ‘we need somebody in there straight away’ there’s an opportunity now to do this properly.”
An incredibly concise and eloquent speaker with knowledge and passion for the Irish game, it’s little wonder that Farrelly is a name that has been thrown about as a potential member of the future board.
Farrelly admits that as of right now, he doesn’t feel he is qualified enough. In the future, however, his love for the game in Ireland could spur his interest in a role.
“I love Irish football, I’m Irish. I’ve consistently maintained an interest and an involvement since 2004. I’m on a UEFA course now that is purely focused on administration and management but I don’t see myself as being qualified at this time for that.
“In the future, very much so. You don’t lose your love for Ireland. You don’t lose your love for the things you see. For me I believe in talent in Ireland. I think there’s a huge opportunity.
“I don’t buy into this business that talent has dropped away. I believe we have to have a plan and we have to have a plan that is above and beyond what is in place now.
“I think there are people in Ireland who are capable of developing, implementing and delivering that and I don’t think they have had an opportunity so I think those people need to be given that opportunity as well.
“The situation we find ourselves in is unprecedented in many ways isn’t it? There’s a whole board stepping down. Now is the time to be really really clever in the next phase.”