TV View: FAI shenanigans at least took our minds off the Gibraltar game
Delaney very much a Remainer as the FAI creates an Executive Vice President ‘backstop’
Republic of Ireland’s Jeff Hendrick scoring against Gibraltar in Saturday’s Euro qualifier at Victoria Stadium, Gibraltar. Photograph: Reuters/Peter Cziborra
Perhaps not since Martin O’Neill deployed Cyrus Christie in midfield against Denmark last year had we been so befuddled by a footballing role and the choice of person to fill it. Virgin Media’s Tommy Martin tried to detail what the exact duties of the FAI’s new executive vice-president would be in their tweaked line-up, with John Delaney now seemingly set to play in a hole behind the front one, but, no more than ourselves, Brian Kerr was none the wiser.
He reckoned it sounded like “a very important position” – the FAI’s capitalising of “Executive Vice President” in its statement suggesting it did too – but beyond that he was struggling.
For the uninitiated it had all the look of, say, removing O’Neill from his job as Republic of Ireland Senior Gaffer and making him Executive Vice President of Republic of Ireland Senior Gaffering. Kerr had a similar hunch.
“This seems like a ‘move aside’ job,” he said, ‘but we’ve got another job for you!’ You’d wonder who decided there was another position suddenly available?”
A torrent of questions, then, and only a trickle of answers, although the FAI did at least confirm that Delaney’s new salary would be “substantially less” than the one he received as CEO, their thrifty cost-cutting no doubt raising a cheer in the living rooms of Ireland.
Until the living rooms of Ireland realised that a new CEO + a new Executive Vice President would quite possibly = no cost-cutting at all, at all.
And would the FAI continue acting as Delaney’s personal HAP (housing assistance payment)? If you’re taking a substantial cut on your €360,000 salary then monthly rent or mortgage repayments of €3,000 (and which one of us hasn’t been there?) could be enough to reduce anyone to the destitution of living in a home set on less than eight acres.
Leo Varadkar, meanwhile, had the look of a man who would have preferred Aine Lawlor to carry on grilling him on Brexit on The Week In Politics rather than being asked for his opinion on the considerably more intractable issue of FAI affairs. The Taoiseach agreed there were “definite questions to be answered” on the Backstop the association had adopted when deciding Delaney should Remain rather than Leave entirely.
On this issue at least Kerr was firmly a Leave man.
“As far as most of the football public are concerned, he’s had his time [Delaney, not Varadkar]. He’s had 14 years at it, there have been far too many mistakes and misdemeanours, he should just leave the stage altogether and get out of it. Let somebody else take over the organisation and run it properly, where there’s less messing and less attention on what the CEO does.”
And then he spoke of Delaney’s “vice iron grip on the association since he’s been in it”, and the loss of “an awful lot of great people over the years who were not replaced by people of the same quality”. Not that he’d say it, but himself, of course, included.
“Tommy, I’m not trying to make any reference to my own relationship with the FAI. I’m talking about lots of other people who worked for the association who no longer work for them, who were discarded. And people who were of real, real quality in terms of their ability. They were lost as far as I’m concerned.”
The FAI’s statement regarding Delaney’s, well, repositioning, was “a whitewash”, he concluded.
It’s hard not to have a right old chuckle at the soap opera that is the FAI, but when good football men like Kerr, steeped in the game here, see nothing funny at all about the ramifications of that soap opera, which, as he said, have resulted in the discarding along the way of so many people more interested in the advancing the game here than the acquiring of silk suits, then it ain’t so funny any more.
The only consolation in it all is that it took our minds off Saturday’s game.
“It wasn’t pretty,” said Jeff Hendrick, “I’m sure a lot of people were out making cups of tea during that.” Double brandies, more like.
The Executive Vice President probably needed a couple of stiff ones too after the day that was in it.