John Delaney signed a new six-year deal with the FAI this week. In a damning article, Conor Hayes questions the CEO’s performance and his exorbitant salary.
People can give so much away by the words they use. They might refer to themselves in the third person showing their narcissism, they might utter an offensive term shining a light on their ignorance or they might patronise, proving their disdain for the other person in the conversation. John Delaney did none of those things speaking on RTÉ a few weeks ago but a phrase he did use revealed an awful lot about how the FAI is run in 2014.
When discussing Roy Keane’s pending move to Aston Villa as assistant manager, the CEO described Keane as ‘an employee of mine’, innocuous at first you might think, but isn’t he an employee of the FAI rather than Delaney’s? In fact Delaney too, is supposed to be employed by the Association.
While the Waterford man was clearly expounding on his own megalomania, it also told us something which has been quite clear for some time; John Delaney is the FAI, the FAI is John Delaney.
Many wondered yesterday how Abbottstown could give the man a contract extension until 2020 ensuring his staggering €360,000 salary remained intact without realising that it is Delaney who is giving himself the inflated figure and who is the driver of his very own gravy train.
Show me a powerful sports administrator and I will show you a great politician. This is no less true of Delaney. On most boards a CEO could be in serious trouble if he overstepped his boundaries but Delaney has been careful to surround himself with yes men and dissent is rare. Questions about the finances of the Association are laughed off or, as is often the case, simply ignored.
In an interview during the week our fearless leader justified his wage by pointing to the increasing turnover of the FAI. A rather Pyrrhic victory given the debt of the organisation is €50 million. Football in this country has never been so impoverished and that peril has come during the tenure of the man who assures us that he has multiple better job offers elsewhere.
Of course, Delaney hasn’t been totally deaf to the outrage over his salary. He has suffered the hardship of once earning €431,687 to bringing in only €360,000, that is a 16.6% decrease. To give an example of a similar cost cutting measure, in 2010, prize money for the two League of Ireland divisions combined was €861k. It is now €315.5k, that’s a 63.35% drop. Not included here is €50,000 given to clubs by television companies which the FAI took for themselves and said they would include in the now meagre prize fund.
Delaney’s non-relationship with the league is a point of interest. Do you think there is another head of a football association in the world who shows not just apathy but contempt for their own domestic competitions? Fans are wise to this, a group of them once chanted about their disdain for the man, they were promptly fined.
The sole concentration of his (and therefore the FAI’s) efforts fall on the senior men’s national team, so thankfully we can see his success in action here. One major tournament during his time as CEO, which resulted in one goal scored and no points. A continual fall down the rankings which now sees us behind such football luminaries as Sierre Leone and Albania.
To blame all this on one man seems callous but then with such a myopic approach to the game you’d at least expect the only aspect of his job he actually performs to show the fruits of his labour. The slide occurring while those in charge of football in this country have done nothing to improve the state of youth and grassroots football.
Delaney waltzes through the messes he leaves behind with relatively little censure from the media. During Euro 2012, while Delaney was filmed drunkenly enjoying our humiliation with fans, the criticism reached its height. But no sooner has any pressure been applied it was loosened. His relationship with Denis O’Brien, who helps pay our coaching staff’s bloated salaries probably helps.
Ever the politician, in his first years in the job he managed to get the RTÉ panel on his side. By asking Giles’ opinion over who to hire and eventually building a relationship with him. He also reached Dunphy, who has praised Delaney on more than one occasion. Both former internationals show an impressive array of mental gymnastics by criticising every manager hired by the FAI’s top man (including caretakers) but never questioning whether it’s time we looked at who is doing the hiring.
While media despair at Sepp Blatter treating FIFA like his own personal fiefdom we have our own version in Ireland; unaccountable and bent on staying in power while making himself tidy sums of money. We also scoff at African associations and their continuing issue with player bonuses: The Irish squad are still owed payments by the FAI for their Euro 2012 qualification.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that on some of those drinking sessions in Poland there were Irish supporters around who held Delaney aloft and chanting his name. They sang that he “used to be a w**ker, but he’s alright now.” It’s not believed any of them were handed a fine.
When he threw his tie into the crowd in Moscow after we were battered for ninety minutes and secured what might be the luckiest draw in the history of international football, our supporters lapped it up. Like Bertie Ahern in the good/bad old days, despite his failures, Delaney seems to attract a very peculiar kind of loyalty.
Unlike Bertie though, who has long been discarded to the scrapheap of Irish history, Delaney is still with us. Any hope football on our Island had of real reform, which might bring about a brighter future, vanished with news of his contract extension.
Six more years and counting…
Conor Hayes, Pundit Arena.