Opinion: It is time for reform in FIFA
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Opinion: It is time for reform in FIFA

IT is true what they say - a weak board really is a long time in FAI politics. It's the first thing you notice when you examine the age profile of Irish football's 10-man governing body - those 50 shades of grey.

These old men are shaping the future of the game. They have the power to award five-year-contracts to Chief Executive Officers and pay the man who holds that position €360,000-a-year.

By the way, the extremely well-paid CEO also sits on the 10-man board. And, by the by, the prize money for the League of Ireland champions is a meagre €100,000.

But it's okay. John Delaney 'loves Irish football. And his country'.  So that justifies everything.

It allows Delaney to go on a moral crusade against Sepp Blatter and FIFA, frees him up to say: "Sepp Blatter lives in a cocoon and doesn't live in the real world. He is the best at divide and conquer I've seen. People thought Charlie Haughey was a good politician, this guy was the best."

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Sitting on his high horse and ready to gallop, Delaney then got personal with Blatter. "Apparently he was [a ladies man], a few ex-wives along the way." Best of all was this little gem. "He (Blatter) believed he was invincible and had a sense of entitlement to his job. He was the leader of a dictatorship, shameless. Hung on to power for as long as he could, surrounded himself with yes men."

So when Blatter resigned on June 2, the association felt compelled to post the following statement.

“This is good news for world football and not before time," said Delaney. "These are changes that we had called for and had hoped would come. We believe there is now an opportunity for real change and reform at FIFA.

“It is important that this opportunity to change the culture within FIFA at the highest levels is not passed up.”

At last, we had a chance to get openness and transparency in football. This was how the East Germans must have felt when the wall came down. Good would triumph over evil. We would no longer have to listen to hypocrites.

Then came a shock. Blatter's chief critique went on RTE radio and admitted he and the FAI had struck a deal with the 'shameless dictator' in the aftermath of the 2009 World Cup play off between Ireland and France.   It was entirely legitimate, of course. Delaney is there to strike deals. That is his job, isn't it?

“We felt we had a legal case against FIFA because of how the World Cup play-off hadn’t worked out for us with the Henry handball,” Delaney said.

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“Also the way [Sepp] Blatter behaved, if you remember on stage, having a snigger and having a laugh at us. That day when I went in, and I told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used and we came to an agreement.

“That was a Thursday and on Monday the agreement was all signed and all done. It’s a very good agreement for the FAI and a very legitimate agreement for the FAI.”

It may well be legitimate, but if so why was it not specifically mentioned in the FAI's annual accounts? Why was €5 million - an extraordinary amount for an association the size of the FAI - lumped in under a different broad heading?

Most of all what had forced Delaney into a change of mind? Why - the day after Ireland's defeat - did he claim his desire to force a replay was solely about 'sporting integrity, not money?'

Why was the deal kept a secret? "The Association has, until now, abided by the confidentiality agreement required by FIFA as part of the settlement," the FAI explained on Friday.

The day before this statement, Delaney was talking about the deal on national radio.  That night on national television, Delaney said: "It is unfortunate that this story got caught up in the business with FIFA. This is a good, legitimate business deal for the FAI." Yet the person who revealed the deal to the world was, yes, you guessed it, Mr J Delaney Esquire.

The bottom line in all of this is that you can't have it both ways. You can't portray yourself as a champion of moral reform and then go on and do a deal with the guy you want out. If your philosophy is simply to get as much money into Irish football, then fine. Stick with that. Be what it says on the tin.

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But if you want to be a footballing evangelist, do us all a favour and practice what you preach. Don't go to Switzerland and shout expletives at Sepp. Stay at home, take a pay-cut, put €260,000 of your €360,000 salary into underage coaching. Bring back Eoin Hand and Brian Kerr, two genuine Irish football men who used to work for the FAI, but left in contentious circumstances.  Give them positions of power.

Resign from the board and separate the executive powers. And while you are at it - encourage the other nine board members to leave as well. Wish them well. They've all had their chance. Give someone else a go.

If you don't fancy carrying out this course of action, then fine. You're the boss. Allow yourself to be judged solely on the bottom line, on business transactions. In doing so, remember this, though. At the last AGM, the FAI explained they had a €50 million debt left to pay off on the Aviva Stadium. No wonder they needed a hand-out from Sepp.