From Saipan to the sports committee, Joe Leogue looks at the former CEO’s career in the FAI
July 2001: John Delaney is appointed honorary treasurer of the FAI.
The Waterford man’s candidacy was unanimously backed by the Munster FA, which was headed at the time by his father Joe Delaney, who himself was a former treasurer of the FAI.
John Delaney had been on the 54-member FAI council for five years prior to his appointment to the role, and was a member of the board at Waterford United since 1996.
He came to national prominence as one of three football officials who publicly campaigned for the FAI to abandon the Eircom Park stadium project.
Delaney’s appointment to the role was confirmed just days before the association’s AGM in Cork when his only rival for the job, Bill Attlee, withdrew from the race.
May 2002: Delaney becomes the public face of the FAI during the Saipan saga, and defends Ireland’s preparations for the 2002 World Cup in the face of criticism from the departing Roy Keane.
“We believe the Association provided the best facilities that we could towards Mick McCarthy’s want and desires,” he tells assembled media at a press conference.
“I think the difference here is a matter of opinion in the sense that Saipan was effectively an R&R set-up for the players to get themselves acclimatised and into some form of training.”
The 2002 World Cup is, to date, Ireland’s last appearance at football’s greatest international tournament.
November 2002: The FAI receives the ‘Genesis Report’ — a review of how the association is run which was prompted by the Saipan fallout. General secretary Brendan Menton resigns, and the report recommends the creation of the post of chief executive.
May 2003: Fran Rooney is appointed chief executive.
November 2004: Rooney resigns amid controversy over his management style and failure to bring about changes suggested in the Genesis Report. The Irish Sports Council warns it will suspend grant funding over the lack of implementation of the recommendations. Delaney takes over, initially on an interim basis.
March 2005: Delaney is appointed permanently CEO.
October 2005: Brian Kerr is sacked as Ireland manager.
February 2006: The FAI hires Steve Staunton to replace Kerr.
October 2007: Staunton is sacked.
May 2008: The FAI makes Giovanni Trapattoni the third Ireland manager of the Delaney era.
September 2008: The FAI launches the ‘Vantage Club’ scheme, selling ten-year tickets to the new Aviva Stadium for prices ranging from €12,000 and €32,000. The FAI estimates it will sell as many as 10,000 tickets through the scheme.
November 2009: Fifa president Sepp Blatter reveals that the FAI asked to have Ireland included as an extra in the World Cup following the Theirry Henry handball incident.
“Naturally they have not asked for any sanctions to be given to any player or the referee, but they have asked, very humbly ‘Can’t we be team No33 at the World Cup?’ They have asked for that, really,” Blatter said to laughter at the Soccerex business conference in Johannesburg.
August 2010: The FAI AGM hears that just 6,000 Vantage Tickets were sold to the public, and that the association has debts of €38m.
June 2012: Ireland qualify for the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, the nation’s first appearance at an international tournament in a decade.
Meanwhile back in Ireland, Monaghan United announces its decision to withdraw from the League of Ireland halfway through the season, citing factors including “the rising costs of membership of senior football and the lack of support from the national league”.
November 2013: Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane are hired as the new Irish management team.
September 2014: Delaney contributes to John the Baptist, an Irish Independent documentary about his life.
“It was a very badly run organisation,” he said of his impression of the FAI when he joined.
October 2014: In a 2FM interview, Delaney says “The League of Ireland is a difficult child for the organisation” — a quote that would follow him for years afterward.
He says domestic football is a “difficult sell” but says the FAI is doing a “decent job” of bringing the league forward.
“Is it at the pace everybody wants? No. But people forget that we went through a recession in this country, and cutbacks had to be made. It’s a difficult country to live in,” he says.
November 2014: Delaney apologises after a video him singing ‘Joe McDonnell’, a republican song, surfaced online.
“When you sing a song like that you don’t believe in every word that’s in the song,” he tells Ryan Tubridy on 2FM.
“Unfortunately, on occasions people use camera phones in a sly way and they try and tape it. People who are not in your company will try to make something bigger than it is.”
June 2015: It emerges that Fifa gave a €5m “loan” to the FAI in the aftermath of the Henry handball, but that the loan was written off after Ireland’s failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
“The association accepted Fifa’s settlement offer to avoid a long, costly and protracted legal case. The offer given to the association was fully written off by Fifa in 2014,” the FAI said.
“We felt we had a legal case against Fifa because of how the World Cup hadn’t worked out for us with the Henry handball,” Delaney told Ray D’Arcy on RTÉ Radio 1.
“Also, the way Blatter behaved when he had a snigger and a laugh at us, that day when I went into him and told him how I felt about him; there were some expletives used, we came to an agreement,” he said.
June 2016: Ireland qualify for the European Championships in France.
November 2018: Mick McCarthy is appointed Ireland manager, with Stephen Kenny lined up to replace him in 2020.
February 2019: Delaney admits “mistakes were made” as new Vantage Club tickets are launched, ranging from €2,000 to €5,000.
March 2019: Delaney steps down as FAI CEO following revelations in The Sunday Times about a “bridging loan” he gave the association in 2017. He assumes the newly created role of executive vice president.
April 2019: Sport Ireland announces it is suspending funding to the FAI amid concerns over corporate governance. Delaney is highly criticised for his performance at an Oireachtas Committee hearing. He says he is acting on legal advice in not answering questions. He cites the Angela Kerins case, where she argued the PAC had exceeded its powers by questioning her over her salary and the finances of the Rehab charity. He privately tells friends he will step away from the organisation.