The Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport continued with their hearings on strategies and governance of sport in Ireland with Sports minister Shane Ross and junior sports minister Patrick O’Donovan.
Mr Ross, while replying to a question asked by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, was interrupted by Mr O’Donovan to correct the record of events and throw former chairman John O’Mahony under a bus in relation to the decision on foot legal advice not to bring FAI CEO John Delaney in to face direct questioning regarding that €5m ‘Henry handball’ compensation payment.
Over the past number of weeks, the Olympic Council of Ireland Rio Olympics ticketing issue has dominated the headlines and a number of serious allegations were made by a section of the Irish media suggesting involvement and wrong doing on my behalf. These allegations arose out of events in Brazil, in particular the issuing of a warrant against my passport by the Brazilian authorities.
As everyone should now be aware, this warrant was subsequently withdrawn, 10 days ago. In fact, the Brazilian police have never made any contact with me in relation to this issue.
When the issue of the warrant was first publicised in Brazil, certain media outlets took the opportunity to make the most serious and defamatory allegations against me.
My role as CEO of the FAI, it seemed, led to a significantly prominent positioning of this inaccurate and high profile reporting. These matters are now in the hands of my legal advisers and so I cannot comment further on them other than to confirm that I had no knowledge of or involvement in anything to do with tickets for the Rio games…..(more at link below)…
John Delaney, CEO of the Football Association of Ireland
John Delaney, CEO of the Football Association of Ireland
John Delaney, the chief executive of FAI, fielded questions at Sport Ireland’s announcement of Government grants to sporting organisations for the year.
Readers may recall how, in January, the FAI held a press conference about its 2016-2020 strategic plan and only invited representatives from their “media partners” to the launch – those from RTÉ and independent.ie.
One journalist described the press conference as ‘the press conference to which the press were not invited’.
Further to this…
This morning, The Irish Times reports:
Private funding, from Denis O’Brien, remains essential to the reappointment of Martin O’Neill as Republic of Ireland football manager, FAI chief executive John Delaney confirmed yesterday.
“Denis’s contribution is invaluable to the reappointment of Martin O’Neill and the management team. Without his contribution it just wouldn’t be possible. The association is more than grateful,” said Delaney.
“Denis has always been a great supporter of Irish football – not only, by the way, in the international team appointment but he was also very helpful in achieving our new finance reduction of €10 million. His company Island Capital were central to our discussions with our new finance partner.”
…It was put to Delaney that the debt has not dropped by any significant amount year on year.
“Well, no, if it was at €70 million and now it is €35 million that is a significant drop . . . ”
Much of that reduction was write downs?
“No,” Delaney replied. “It is not. The recent €10 million was paid down, it wasn’t a write down. It was paid down. That’s significant, okay? So, now you look at the facts: We used to have a debt of €70 odd million. It is now, with our banking partner of €35 million. It is well within our compass to be debt free by 2020, if we wish to do so.”
From top: FAI CEO John Delaney (right) Republic and of Ireland soccer manager Martin O’Neill; press release issued by the FAI on Friday
It’s John’s club.
And you’re not in it.
You may have read about how the FAI held a press conference last Friday about the launch of its 2016 – 2020 strategic plan which, among other things, stated it will “continue to aim to be debt-free by 2020”.
The FAI only invited representatives from their “media partners” to the launch – those from RTÉ and independent.ie.
Further to this…
Paul Rowan, in yesterday’s Irish edition of The Sunday Times wrote:
“When John Delaney first stopped holding open media sessions at the FAI’s AGM two years ago, a list of 10 questions were sent by the assembled media to him and the association which remained unanswered. By last year’s event in Sligo, it had swelled to 20 questions, but there was no response. Now the policy appears to be to lockout the press completely when it comes to any platform where the future of the association is being discussed.”
“Certainly it was more Cluedo than 20 questions when it came to approaching selected media over launch of the FAI’s strategic four-year plan, now dubbed the press conference to which the press were not invited.”
“…Also there was John Treacy, the chief executive of Sport Ireland, the state body which distributes public funds to the FAI and other sporting organisations in the country. And it is at the door of Treacy and his paymasters in the department of transport, tourism and sport that the responsibility now lays to rein in the FAI.”
“The association, and in particular Delaney, appear to believe they are above proper public scrutiny, despite the fact that the FAI goes cap in hand for state funding — €2.7m of which it received in the last annual round — and is also the guardian of the most popular participation sport in the country.
So far, neither Sport Ireland nor the politicians have done a very good job in scrutinising how an important national organisation in receipt of large sums of public money goes about its business.”
FAI chief John Delaney and partner Emma English at the Aviva Lansdowne Road Nua yesterday
Anything good in The Washington Post?
But of course there are questions of legal and ethical impropriety in this arrangement. For one, the payment was kept confidential, and Delaney claims he had to abide by a confidentiality provision.
On the other hand, his spontaneous public confession suggests otherwise, and he didn’t have to agree to the confidentiality provision in the first place.
Why would a nonprofit sporting organization and one of its member nations think that keeping this payment secret was a proper way to conduct business? Losing teams are always unhappy, and lawsuits almost never provide satisfaction, so FIFA had very little to fear in a courtroom.
Yet this secret deal — with both the amount and the entire arrangement kept clandestine — still struck both parties as perfectly reasonable. If further investigation determines that these private parties agreed to commit public wrongs, the deal might not be a shrewd bargain so much as an illegal conspiracy.
More troublingly, why was the payment characterised as a “loan” to build a stadium? If that description turns out to be inaccurate, then the creative bookkeeping might have been an effort to hide the hush money.
So even if Delaney was right to accept the money and to stay quiet about it, football fans of Ireland might still consider this accounting ingenuity a firing offense. If not for Delaney, then perhaps for the auditors…..
Unpalatable as it may seem, €5m in cold hard cash was an extraordinary coup. In one fell swoop, Delaney made up for much of the shortfall in corporate ticket sales for the Aviva, and did so without being in any way beholden to Fifa.
When all the posturing and righteous indignation has died down, people will see that John Delaney actually managed to deliver what our actual team has conspicuously failed to achieve in recent times. A result.
Eamon Dunphy (top) and John Delaney in Poznan Slovakia, Poland in 2012
“I think it suggests it was a bit late to the Sopranos. Tony decides that this fella is annoying me, he is giving me grief. He reaches for the cheque book, signs the cheque. There’s $5m, we’ll make it a loan. If you don’t qualify for the next World Cup, will you shut up?
“And John Delaney took it. If John Delaney was chancing his arm, and I think he was, then I think most Irish people would say fair play to him provided the money went into Irish soccer.”
Eamon Dunphy on the ‘Hand of Wad’ controversy.
“How could anyone with any soul or simple respect for their fellow-man put a price on the heartache suffered by Dunne, those fabulous fans and a sport craving probity? How could the FAI consider with a straight face investing that Fifa “loan” into any stadium used by players who dream of reaching a World Cup?
As somebody remarked the day after the game: “It’s not about money. This is about sporting integrity.” Who said that? Step forward John Delaney, chief executive of the FAI…”
Henry Winter, Daily Telegraph Football Correspondent.