Former FAI chief executive John Delaney’s future with the organisation is the subject of mounting speculation following discussions at its headquarters in Abbotstown on Saturday.
Talks aimed at drawing a line under the controversy that followed the revelation of a €100,000 loan Mr Delaney gave the association in 2017 have intensified in the last 24 hours.
John O’Regan, secretary of the Kerry District League, told The Irish Times Mr Delaney had texted him today to say Mr Delaney would be stepping down from the FAI board, but would continue his role with Uefa. Mr O’Regan said Mr Delaney had texted subsequently to say he was “not gone yet”.
John O'Regan of the KDL has told Radio Kerry Sports that John Delaney sent him a text to say that he (Delaney) was stepping down from his position as Executive Vice President of the FAI— Radio Kerry Sport (@radiokerrysport) April 13, 2019
Mr O’Regan made similar comments to Radio Kerry earlier today.
The ongoing controversy resulted in protests at a number of League of Ireland matches on Friday night. At Turner’s Cross in Cork gardaí and security staff intervened after Cork City fans displayed a banner calling for Mr Delaney to stand down.
Mr Delaney resigned as FAI chief executive days after the controversial loan was reported and took up the newly created role of executive vice-president with the FAI.
Well-placed sources said several members of the FAI board are now wavering in their support for Mr Delaney.
Two board members are believed to be firmly opposed to Mr Delaney continuing in his new role.
There are, however, significant concerns that if Mr Delaney was to leave his post, Ireland’s influence at Uefa, the European governing body for soccer, could also be diminished at a time the association is pursuing a joint bid for the 2030 World Cup alongside the English, Welsh and Scottish football associations.
Mr Delaney is a member of Uefa’s executive until 2021, having been elected in 2017. The terms of his departure from the FAI would also have to be addressed.
Alongside the initial two board members, several more are said to be uncertain about supporting Mr Delaney, as well as other board members seen as being loyal to the former chief executive.
It follows a week of intense controversy for the FAI, culminating in an appearance at the Oireachtas sport committee on Wednesday where Mr Delaney read a prepared statement but refused to answer questions about the loan, citing legal advice.
Sources were also strongly critical of honorary treasurer Eddie Murray following his appearance at the hearing, when he incorrectly said the FAI had just one bank account. The association has 24 bank accounts.
Efforts to contact the FAI press office were unsuccessful on Saturday afternoon.
Earlier this week sponsors of the FAI said they placed a strong emphasis on good corporate governance, and that they expected the recommendations of two FAI-commissioned reports to be implemented in full.
However, other sources said they were unhappy that the terms of reference for the reviews had not been published, and that there was no clarity as to whether the reports from consultancy firms Mazars and Grant Thornton would be released in full on completion.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Friday questions “need to be answered” by the FAI and Mr Delaney over the €100,000 loan.
Speaking after a week in which Mr Delaney refused to answer questions at an Oireachtas committee about the loan, Mr Varadkar said: “I don’t think anyone would be satisfied by it”.
“The public, taxpayers, football fans would have like those questions to be answered.”
Mr Varadkar added Mr Delaney had been under no obligation to answer questions at the Oireachtas committee.
“The truth is that he was within his legal rights not to answer those questions. He is not a public servant and therefore is not accountable to the Oireachtas,” he said.
“However, the FAI is accountable to the Office of the Director for Corporate Enforcement and is accountable to Sport Ireland for the money they get.”
Elsewhere, sources said that they doubted sponsors would abandon the FAI immediately, despite several issuing statements on the controversy this week. One source close to a current FAI sponsor said that it was likely brands would adopt a “wait and see” attitude, adding that it was “not the role of a sponsor to decide what the next part of the process should be”.