FAI scandal: Sack the board & open the books

By Ruth Coppinger TD

A bridging loan by John Delaney, the CEO, to the Football Association of Ireland; an injunction to prevent press coverage of it; a refusal to inform Sport Ireland of the transaction or to explain it since — all culminating in reports that Delaney was paid €3,000 per month rent on top of a fat cat salary of €360,000. These revelations have caused incredulity and outrage among football fans and public alike.

For the CEO of a sports organization in a small country to draw such a massive salary is beyond justification. With a national team under-performing, even more so. Delaney’s full expenses aren’t publicly known and he also earns a salary from UEFA involvement.

Nepotism & crony capitalism

Meanwhile, FAI workers have suffered pay cuts. League of Ireland clubs struggle, often unable to pay players. Grassroots teams lack facilities. And, of course, the women’s national team had to strike in 2017 over lack of tracksuits, being forced to change in toilets and general disrespect. A picture of nepotism and crony capitalism pervades the FAI.

Delaney’s sense of entitlement appears to go unchallenged by Board members,  who’ve been in situ for years. Former commercial director, Karl Heffernan, was involved in a property development business with Delaney, which also has connections to Fine Gael politicians.

What was revealed at the initial Oireachtas hearing with Sport Ireland is the light-touch or no regulation of the FAI. Despite having breached the quite flimsy transparency requirements for receipt of public money and giving Sport Ireland a humiliating run-around when asked questions, grants have never been withheld from the FAI to force them into better governance. Like all neo-liberal business, the FAI and all sporting bodies are considered National Governing Bodies and essentially self regulating.

Galling situation

For fans who buy tickets and merchandise, for the public who fund a percentage of the FAI’s operations, the situation is galling. Fans staged a ‘tennis ball’ protest at a recent international in the AVIVA stadium.

The Socialist Party released a statement following the revelations of the loan. We called on the FAI to make a statement on the rent claims, paid at a time when the Association’s workers were being told that a temporary pay cut could not be restored due to financial constraints. We will also ask questions when Delaney and some FAI bosses testify at the Dail Committee.

The corruption in this and other sports must end. Delaney and the FAI Board should be stood down. They should be replaced with an elected Board, dominated by representatives of workers, club volunteers, players and the public.

Investment in sport

The FAI should be forced to open their books, including all expenses and remuneration of the present and former CEO and the entire Board. Breaches of the law should be prosecuted. The days of the likes of Delaney and Hickey swanning around like Lords must end.

Funding for Sports of all kinds and at all levels should be massively increased, given its huge benefits for health and well-being. This can only be done through taking ownership and control of the wealth in society and using it for the interests of the majority not the few.