Still so many questions remaining for Delaney and the FAI board to answer
Who does the board answer to with regard to the extraordinary changes made?
John Delaney in the stand at the Gibraltar versus Republic of Ireland game. Many questions remain about details of the former FAI CEO’s long stewardship of the association. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
John Delaney will still attend the hearing to be held next month by the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport, it seems, but the politicians could surely do with having somebody from the FAI’s board answer a few questions while they are at it after the they announced a major restructuring of its top-level management in Gibraltar on Saturday night.
The hurried nature of the announcement was prompted by the imminent publication of another story about Delaney’s financial relationship with his employers.
But the board have justified the changes made on the basis of recommendations made by Jonathan Hall, a consultant who was previously an executive director of the English FA, after he had been asked to review the senior management set up at Abbotstown.
Delaney is, on the face of it, losing a large portion of the control he has exerted over the association for the past decade and a half as well as his seat on the board. Demotions don’t often come like this, however. If he is falling from grace, the association’s other directors are clearly determined to give him the softest of landings.
There is no suggestion, meanwhile, that any of the people he is supposed to have been accountable to – a couple of whom have been in situ almost as long as him – are remotely inclined to consider their own positions.
That might be expected in another organisation where the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement had felt obliged to initiate a review of finances in light of a failure to report that a chief executive had had to loan his employer €100,000 to help it pay its wages.
More damning in the case of the FAI, though, are persistent financial problems that provided the context for such a loan in the first place.
The list of controversies in which Delaney had been embroiled in before that is too long to recount here, but the calamitous failure of the ticket scheme he championed, one that was intended to pay the association’s share of the Lansdowne Road redevelopment, would surely have cost many CEO’s their position for a start.
Since then he has sung IRA songs and threatened to sue those who reported it, paraded his public life in a humiliating manner and displayed breathtaking hypocrisy after publicly criticising Sepp Blatter for his cavalier approach to Fifa’s finances.
Through it all, a board that has undergone only minimal change over many years; one that, despite the recommendations of another report to the FAI, Genesis, nearly 20 years ago, contains no independent outsiders, has continued to stand firmly behind him.
Its members, though, must surely have been a party to episodes like the loan and at least some of them were presumably also aware of the finer detail of Delaney’s expenses. Even now, as he is demoted, they remain silent save for a late night statement on which no questions are taken.
On the various occasions he embroiled himself in controversy down the years, Delaney was always adamant that he answered to them but there has never been the slightest public suggestion that they were asking any searching questions.
The more important one now is just who exactly does the board answer to with regard to the extraordinary changes they have just made and their wider handling of the association’s governance?
Few in the game will be holding their breath for any signs of accountability. Those who want to advance the causes of their clubs and leagues know they must avoid at all costs being seen to challenge the thinking around a top table where things have become very cosy indeed.
The bulk of the board’s membership has grown old together and the process has been helped by Delaney, who oversaw a change to the rules at one stage in order to allow his trusted allies honorary secretary Michael Cody and honorary treasurer Eddie Murray serve another term.
Outside interference was resisted with the FAI declining for as long it feasibly could to implement even the rather basic recommendations of Sport Ireland on term limits. There have not, as a result, been many changes in the board’s line-up and about the most common reason for a vacancy in the last few years has been the death of a serving member.
After two decades or so, Delaney will finally lose his place on it now. That neither he, in his new role, nor his successor in what remains of the CEO’s one, will be members of the board in the future is a long overdue but still significant step forward in terms of the FAI’s governance.
The other members have remained loyal to him, though, even as his position as chief executive finally became completely unsustainable.
There is, of course, a long tradition of corporate entities commissioning outside consultants to provide recommendations they intend to provide the basis for taking a preferred course of action. The association has been no stranger to the phenomenon down the years.
Sometimes these situations involve a need to shake up an existing power structure in order to adopt what is regarded as best practice in a particular sector or industry. This, it seems, is what the FAI would have us believe it was doing when its board voted on Friday to endorse Hall’s recommendations.
Few, though, view the creation of a new “Executive Vice-President” role and the effective division of the chief executive role as amounting to anything like best practice, given the obvious practical problems it is likely to create at the very top of the organisation.
How long the new arrangements will persist, of course, remains to be seen. Delaney’s place on the board gave him a particular grip on power and now that has been lost, this may well prove to be a first step towards the door.
His desired destination beyond it is widely believed to be Uefa and his current employers have helpfully facilitated a bid for re-election to its executive committee when his current term is up by the keeping him in the executive role at national association level that Uefa’s rules require.
In the meantime, the aim out in Abbotstown will be to get back to business as usual as soon as possible.
Rea Walshe, a solicitor who joined the association five years ago from Liberty Insurance and was only last month promoted to the role of chief operating officer, has been handed the CEO’s role on an interim basis and the way this is all panning out it is difficult to resist the suspicion that she will ultimately be right up there amongst the frontrunners when a process aimed at filling it permanently gets properly under way.
Getting a few months under her belt would surely be an advantage if she does want the job on a longer-term basis. The name of the association’s last interim CEO? John Delaney.
The questions the FAI still needs to answer
1 What other details of John Delaney’s financial relationship with the FAI have yet to come out?
2 Aside from his salary, what other payments have been made to him?
3 How much has he been paid in expenses during his time in the job of chief executive
4 Have there been any other loans of any type between Delaney and the association?
5 Does either party currently owe the other money?
6 How much was paid in expenses to the directors of the association last year?
7 Does the board believe that John Delaney has at all times acted in the best financial interests of the association?
8 The timing and nature of Delaney’s redeployment on Saturday night suggested that the board felt his position as chief executive was no longer tenable. That being the case, how can he regarded as suitable for the newly created role of ‘Executive Vice President’ given that it contains many of his previous responsibilities?
9 What will the salary now be for the CEO role?
10 Is the recommendation that John Delaney vacate the role of CEO and take up the newly created position of Executive Vice President the only one made in relation to senior management positions within the FAI? What other recommendations are made?
11 Do members of the association’s board feel that they are responsible in any way for the events that have come to light in recent weeks and the wider financial situation at the FAI?
12 Who agreed the terms of the €100,000 loan with Delaney?
13 Who was responsible for agreeing a package of expenses that included €3,000 a month for rent?