John Delaney receives lavish praise from grassroots officials

Joint letter expresses gratitude to the former CEO and firm backing for his new FAI role

John Delaney: letter is evidence of his high standing in the eyes of  officials in the provincial councils and the FAI Junior Council.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

John Delaney: letter is evidence of his high standing in the eyes of officials in the provincial councils and the FAI Junior Council. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

 

With controversy still surrounding the future of John Delaney at the FAI, the game’s provincial associations and Junior Council have come out to bat for the beleaguered executive in a letter that pays lavish tribute to his record over 14 years in the role of chief executive.

Signed by the leading administrators of the provincial associations in Munster, Ulster, Connacht and Leinster as well as the long-standing secretary of the FAI Junior Council, Dennis Cruise, the letter expresses firm support for Delaney as the right man to keep on working with Uefa and Fifa is his newly created role of Executive Vice President.

“In his time as CEO,” the letter states, “he has visited almost 2,000 grassroots clubs all over the country from Wexford to Donegal and Kerry to Louth, assisting many clubs with the development of their facilities. He has turned the sod on many new grounds and performed opening ceremonies at several new clubhouses and has always recognised the work performed by volunteers at club level all over the country.

“Under John’s leadership,” it continues, “the FAI facilities department assisted many clubs with Sports Capital grant applications as well as advising clubs technically on clubhouses, artificial pitches and floodlighting. Whenever possible he attended club and league presentation nights, anniversary dinners and dedicated a lot of his free time to attending these events, often taking up family time to be at a particular event to recognise a landmark occasion.”

The letter goes on to deal with some of the major changes that have taken place during Delaney’s long period at the helm of the association like the relocation to Abbotstown and, of course, the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road.

It also hails the successful bid to stage a portion of Euro 2020 (three group games and a round of 16 match), at the stadium as well as the fact that the draw for the qualifying rounds of the tournament was held in Dublin in December.

“In his time as CEO, the FAI moved from Merrion Square to a very impressive complex in Abbotstown providing offices for staff, affiliates and leagues with six superb quality pitches which are up to International standard,” it is stated.

“When John Delaney became CEO in 2005, the FAI were renting Lansdowne Road from the IRFU for International games, they are now co-owners of a state-of-the-art stadium which is the envy of many national associations.

“With bids for the Uefa U-21 finals in 2023 and a joint Fifa World Cup bid for 2030,” it states, “this is a very exciting time for our beautiful game and John Delaney must be given credit for the hard work and effort he has put into ensuring the game is in the best place possible in this country.

Grassroots game

“All in the grassroots game are very grateful,” it concludes, “for John’s support and contribution to the grassroots game in his time as CEO and fully believe he is the person to continue his work with Uefa and Fifa matters in his new role as Executive Vice President.

The tone of the letter and the significance of the organisations it represents are reminders of the still substantial support Delaney enjoys amongst club and league officials in large sections of the game around the country.

The five organisations hold more than one third of the total votes on the National Council of the FAI and so provide the foundation of his power there.

There is a sense, however, that the authors rather miss the point of what critics see as Delaney’s failings.

He has, of course, worked hard to cultivate the loyalty of officials like Peter Doyle (Leinster), Gerry Tully (Connacht), Ger Delaney (Munster), Herbie Barr (Ulster) as well as Cruise; the five who have put their names to the letter, with nobody disputing the energy he has put into attending club functions around the country down the years.

The 2,000 figure in 14 years represents almost 150 per annum; an extraordinary number for a man in such a key management role, one that presumably involves a lot of late nights in Dublin and many trips abroad. But he has been paid around €6 million by the association during the time he has made them; that’s roughly €3,000 per club visit.

It is, in fact, that very parish pump political style he employs in order to maintain his popularity that is routinely seized upon by his critics.

Visiting clubs to turn sods, cut ribbons and attend anniversary dinners was traditionally the work of the association’s officers, most obviously the president, whose role always included a very large ceremonial element.

Successive presidents have, however, been increasingly nudged aside by Delaney as, it would be widely viewed, he has sought to take centre stage in every good news story and local newspaper photograph.

Overseeing an organisation that provides advice on grant funding, facilities and the like, is simply what he is paid to do and there are many within the game too who believe if the chief executive did more of that rather than travelling about the country whatever number of days a week in order to be the one to hand over outsized cheques for the cameras, the organisation might actually be in somewhat better shape than it is.

The letter in full:

"In light of recent events concerning former FAI CEO John Delaney, the four Provincial Associations and Junior Council feel it is an appropriate time to acknowledge the contribution of Mr Delaney to the grassroots game over the past fourteen years.

In his time as CEO, he has visited almost 2000 grassroots clubs all over the country from Wexford to Donegal and Kerry to Louth, assisting many clubs with the development of their facilities. He has turned the sod on many new grounds and performed opening ceremonies at several new clubhouses and has always recognised the work performed by volunteers at club level all over the country.

Under John’s leadership, the FAI facilities department assisted many clubs with Sports Capital grant applications as well as advising clubs technically on clubhouses, artificial pitches and floodlighting. Whenever possible he attended club and league presentation nights, anniversary dinners and dedicated a lot of his free time to attending these events, often taking up family time to be at a particular event to recognise a landmark occasion.

He was instrumental in bringing the FAI AGM from a Dublin based event to several counties around the country and this Festival of Football is now a much sought after event by many leagues and is booked up well into the mid 2020’s.

Club visits, volunteer recognition awards, coach of the year awards as well as the much coveted club of the year award are now very much a part of this festival

The launch of the FAI National Draw assisted many clubs in raising badly needed funds with the FAI providing some excellent prizes allowing clubs to keep a major share of the price of every ticket sold. This draw has become the sole major fundraiser of many grassroot clubs around the country and has further assisted clubs in developing their facilities and coaching structures.

When John Delaney became CEO in 2005, the FAI were renting Lansdowne Road from the IRFU for International games, they are now co-owners of a state of the art stadium which is the envy of many National Associations.

Also, in his time as CEO, the FAI moved from Merrion Square to a very impressive complex in Abbotstown providing offices for staff, affiliates and leagues with six superb quality pitches which are up to International standard.

The Women’s and Schoolboys section of the grassroots game have been brought under the umbrella of the National Association and in the history of the game in the country, it could be said that all strands of the game have never been closer and working so well together.

Next month, the country will host the UEFA Under Seventeen finals, an event that has sixteen countries competing in games that will be played in Dublin, Longford, Wicklow and Waterford. This comes on the back of a very high profile qualifying draw for Euro 2020 which was held in the Convention Centre last December and brought the elite of European soccer to Dublin. June 2020 will see four games in the Euro 2020 finals being played in the Aviva Stadium with our boys in green hopefully still involved.

With bids for the UEFA Under Twenty One finals in 2023 and a joint FIFA World Cup bid for 2030, this is a very exciting time for our beautiful game and John Delaney must be given credit for the hard work and effort he has put into ensuring the game is in the best place possible in this country.

His election to the UEFA Executive committee is testament to the high regard he is held within the game in Europe and while this is a great honour for John, it is also recognition of the game in our Association

All in the grassroots game are very grateful for John’s support and contribution to the grassroots game in his time as CEO and fully believe he is the person to continue his work with UEFA and FIFA matters in his new role as Executive Vice President."

Peter Doyle, Leinster FA
Gerry Tully , Connacht FA
Ger Delaney, Munster FA
Herbie Barr, Ulster FA
Dennis Cruise, Sec, FAI Junior Council

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