Use aid leverage to clear the air: FAI faces credibility crisis

John Delaney.

Politicians understand the power of sport and how its reflected glory — never the alternative — can endear them to fans of one code or another.

As early as February, 1922, well before the Civil War, government agreed a grant of £10,000 would be made so Croke Park could host what was fantastically described as a Gaelic Olympics — the Tailteann Games.

Those lessons also flow in the opposite direction. John Delaney, who has “offered to voluntarily step aside” from the FAI, learned from Charlie Haughey, who rebuilt unshakeable grassroots support by his Herculean commitment to the “rubber chicken circuit”.

In the end, that baseline support could not save Haughey, and so it has proved for Delaney.

One question too many, one expression of hubris too many, ended his 14-year reign as FAI boss. Those questions remain an unfudgeable challenge for Government.

It has given almost €50m to the FAI over the past decade and unless it is to face the same questions on transparency and governance dogging the FAI it must use its leverage to clear the air.

We have a long and unfortunate history of strongmen administrators across various sports.

They all too often seem symptomatic of the least attractive elements of our culture. It is time those who pay piper — with taxpayers’ funds — found the gumption to call the tune.

This obligation is made even more pressing by yesterday’s announcement by auditors Deloitte that the accounts of the FAI are not being properly kept.

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