John Delaney - used to be the treasurer but he's in charge now

Wed, Jun 20, 2012, 01:00

EURO 2012:A DECADE ago, when the bullets were flying around the FAI over the Saipan affair, one of the criticisms levelled at Brendan Menton was that he had demeaned the status of the position of association chief executive by showing up to team training in shorts. Given the photographs and video of John Delaney out socialising in Poland over the last few weeks, it seems a more laughable complaint than ever now.

Delaney, who was treasurer of the association in 2002, played a key role in the departure of both Menton and, subsequently, Fran Rooney and has won just about every internal battle he has fought since.

The upshot is that he is widely considered to be untouchable within the organisation; an attitude he would appear to share himself if the many images of his nights out that have appeared in newspapers or on various social media platforms over the last week or two are anything to go by.

Technically, of course, he is an employee of the association and answerable to his board.

But those who have publicly stood up to him in the past have tended to leave the organisation not long afterwards and, if it would be unfair to describe the current members as “yes men”, then it is certainly hard to recall any significant issues on which they have said no to him in recent times.

His job brings with it a salary/package worth just over €400,000 – that’s about three times what Menton was paid for performing the same role a decade ago and four times what a League of Ireland team will receive for winning the title this year.

The biggest part of the salary hike occurred during Rooney’s time at the association, with the former Baltimore Technologies man demanding to be paid what he reckoned he was worth.

Even at a time that many others within the organisation had concluded that the appointment of Rooney had been an error, Delaney told The Irish Times that he believed Rooney’s demands should be met.

In time, Rooney did get most of what he wanted but as he was forced out of the job soon afterwards it was to be Delaney who ultimately benefited.

As rivals departed one after the other, power appeared to become more and more centralised within the association, with Delaney coming to wield almost all of it. Many, though certainly not all, grumbled in private but given the central importance of the association in making or obtaining grants for clubs and leagues, none wanted to be identified as an opponent.

And during the boom the amount of money that flooded into the association from the public and private sectors meant Delaney came to be regarded by many, not least himself, as a tremendous success. On one of the many occasions he has been asked what is it he does that merits him being paid more than the Taoiseach, he said he “delivers” for the association.

Now, however, the association in struggling under the weight of the huge debt it incurred for its part of the Lansdowne Road redevelopment. The association’s plan, championed by Delaney, was that the money, around €70 million, would be paid through the sale of premium seats but the pricing and timing of the scheme was spectacularly misjudged, with the result that the finances of the organisation were plunged into crisis.

That, combined with dramatic cuts to public funding and other setbacks on the revenue front like plummeting ticket income and the swift collapse of the Dublin Super Cup, have left the association looking pretty desperate at times, as when they refused Limerick permission to play high-profile friendlies in Thomond Park or when centralised deals ended up depriving already cash-starved clubs of income they had previously received directly from the same sponsors.

Some supporters of the club and of the league generally ask how it was that somebody whose salary accounted for about one per cent of the association’s entire turnover last year could feel free to enjoy himself so wholeheartedly while the senior game back at home received yet another body blow with the decision of Monaghan United to withdraw from the League of Ireland.

Others have been less surprised. There was some mirth among the press corps when the 44-year-old was asked to help launch a drinkaware leaflet aimed at fans coming to Poland given that he had been involved in high-profile drink related stunts while on recent trips to Slovakia, Estonia and Russia.

Here, most of the journalists on the trip tended to avoid Max’s cocktail bar in Sopot on the basis that they might run into him.

By the end of the trip, though, it wasn’t hard to uncover a fan with a story relating to the chief executive’s behaviour which typically involves joining in with or leading a chorus of “Oh John Delaney, used to be a w****r but he’s all right now”.

Some of those he is singing with clearly like him but for others he is a laughing stock.

He has never exactly shied away from the spotlight, of course, but to be at the heart of a story like this would, for most people, be utterly humiliating.

It is not entirely clear what those around him have made of it – although there has been more of that grumbling – but it is not hard to imagine what the likes of Michel Platini (as important to Delaney these days in terms of funding as the Irishman is to those beneath him in the game) must think.

If, in any case, he is embarrassed by the remarkable pictures which have appeared in Sunday newspapers or the various images now viewable on the likes of YouTube or Twitter then he has shown no sign of it.

Perhaps he’s actually proud of himself. The players, after all, only came remotely close to delivering at these European Championships in the last game. Delaney, it seems, gave it more of a lash over the course of the group stages.