John Delaney acting in a manner unbefitting for the position he holds

Constant drip-drip of headlines reflects poorly on the football association

FAI chief exeutive John Delaney

FAI chief exeutive John Delaney

 

The problem isn’t just the song. The problem is the constant drip-drip of headlines. It’s the swaggering disregard for how the leader of a national sports body should be acting in public. And even if those are the sort of intangibles that are arguably a matter of taste, the incorrect denials made by John Delaney’s legal representatives are certainly a problem.

The sports website Balls.ie was warned off the Ballad of Joe McDonnell story over the weekend by an FAI spokesperson and advised that they were leaving themselves open to legal proceedings unless they took the video down from their site.

Law firm

Both the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph were subsequently warned off as well, this time by London law firm Debello Law who said simply that the voice in the recording wasn’t John Delaney’s. Yet not 24 hours later, Delaney himself was on 2FM and Newstalk confirming that it was.

How could it be that his lawyer was saying one thing in the evening and Delaney another the following morning? Well you might ask. His attempt to clear it up as the day passed only served to further muddy the waters. The personal statement posted on the FAI website contained the following explanation:

“Yesterday, during the day, I was travelling back with my partner from abroad and trying to deal primarily with the serious cyber bullying issues facing her. I now understand that while I was travelling and uncontactable there was some confusion through a third party around the background of a video which appeared and where it happened which led to misunderstanding.”

The statement clearly poses more questions than it answers. Is the third party to which he refers Debello Law or someone within the association? If so, what ‘background’ was so confusing that it led to the Guardian being told “simply that it is not him singing in the video”.

And if that is his explanation for how he and Debello Law happened to be talking at cross purposes, how does he account for Balls.ie being delivered the same message a full two days earlier, this time through an FAI employee? Is it credible that the “confusion” he attributes to the fact that he was travelling and uncontactable on Monday just so happened to impart a warning identical to the one the FAI spokesperson gave on Saturday?

Take down

Or is it more likely that having made Balls.ie take down the video, the FAI engaged a law firm to stop the two English papers running the story in the hope that it would then go away, only for Delaney to see it on page one of The Irish Times yesterday morning and realise he had to hold his hands up?

One way or the other, the FAI’s chief executive has tied himself up in knots on the back of yet again forgetting how the FAI chief executive is supposed to behave. It's pretty obvious that in a role that demands a certain level of diplomacy when it comes to dealing with the nations around us, singing about IRA hunger strikers in a public place is best avoided.

The point is not whether anyone is pro-republican or pro-IRA. Delaney is perfectly entitled to sing what he likes and drink where he likes and socialise however he sees fit.

But how can he not see that there is something amiss with the head of the FAI singing about IRA hunger strikes on the same night as the England football manager is answering questions about English supporters singing anti-IRA songs? How can he not recognise that on the grounds of tact alone, that is a bad idea seven months before we host them in Dublin?

Delaney keeps repeating in his media appearances that he abhors violence. Nobody has suggested anything to the contrary. But it is Delaney’s best attempt at moving attention away from the real issue, which is his singular ability to find his way into the news for the wrong reasons.

Whether it’s appearing boss-eyed drunk with supporters in Poland or submitting to the ludicrous John the Baptist documentary or picking a fight with the Scottish FA to deflect from the FAI’s own ticket-allocation mistakes, Delaney keeps acting in a manner that you simply don’t see from the head of any other sporting body.

That, rather than a rebel song, is the problem.

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