As spring turns to summer, it’s timely for John Delaney to offer to take on a spell of gardening leave, as his future in Irish football is now up in the air.
Delaney, chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland until three weeks ago, yesterday offered to step aside as the executive vice-president pending the completion of an independent review, while two board members, honorary secretary Michael Cody and honorary treasurer Eddie Murray, both voluntarily resigned yesterday.
For all the boasts of Uefa funding by their committee member Delaney, that funding is put into the shade by Government intervention. That includes not only the Sport Ireland grants amounting near €3m-per-annum but a chunk of the €100m special projects fund and the co-funding with every local authority of development officers.
There is also the matter of a €5m grant which is due to be spent on upgrading the Lansdowne Road floodlights in time for the four Euro 2020 finals games being played at the stadium.
All of these monies hinge on the Government hierarchy, up to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, being suitably satisfied with the FAI’s internal corporate governance and financial controls.
Vagaries around Delaney’s employment status, through the FAI’s statement following three hours of talks with the executive vice-president, hindered rather than helped their trust levels.
Fergus O’Dowd, chairman of the Oireachtas committee for sport, transport and tourism, wants his resignation to be permanent, rather than carrying the pending caveat floated.
In keeping with a recent pattern, the FAI’s letter to the committee landed late last night. Rather than address a series of unanswered questions lingering from last week’s appearance at the committee, most remain a mystery.
They cite commercial sensitivities in refusing to confirm the category of creditor which the controversial €100,000 loan by John Delaney in 2017 was required for and they completely ignore the query of TD Robert Troy about who approved a FAI statement of March 18.
This bulletin declared that the association’s board were kept fully informed of the loan; a declaration last week contradicted in a subsequent statement.
O’Dowd will have Minister Shane Ross, along with Sport Ireland chairman Kieran Mulvey and chief executive John Treacy, before his committee today.
High on their agenda is the commissioning of a full and forensic audit on all financial matters dating back a number of years.
Sport Ireland, in their opening statement to the committee, sought a similar exercise, over and above the Mazars and Grant Thornton reports being paid for by the FAI.
Where the debate will likely intensify today is agreeing the scope of any audit. Given only three members of the board including Delaney knew of a €100,000 loan issue, politicians want to trawl deep and broad.
The only member of the current board aware of that arrangement, Michael Cody, yesterday retired after almost 30 years at the top table.
Politicians will also be keen to ask about The Sunday Times revelations regarding Delaney’s spending on a company credit card in 2016.
Eddie Murray, who as treasurer under rule was responsible for approving those expenses, also disappeared off the board yesterday. His appearance at last week’s committee hearing, like that of Delaney, was roundly lambasted.
Those yearning for a clean break of Delaney from the game will have to be patient.
FAI insiders were last night preaching the principle of due process in allowing him respond to any queries identified so far from the internal review and whatever else crops up.
Either way, he is no longer an active member of the executive team and will be called upon when required to assist them in rehabilitating their reputation to the public, sponsors and government officials.
It appears the walls are also closing in on him from the League of Ireland fraternity.
A proposal to share control in a new hybrid model from next year, whereby the FAI retain a majority 40% stake with the two divisions holding 30% each, has been emphatically rejected.
Mike Treacy, chairman of Dundalk, led the way in speaking his mind. Firstly, he described the exposure of Delaney’s expenses as ‘disturbing and unacceptable’ before highlighting a ‘lack of trust’ in the governing body. Treacy’s American hedge fund Peak6 only took over the double champions last year.
Delaney still maintains his role in Uefa, a privilege that may also come under spotlight. While he has another two years to run on his term, Uefa have confirmed their awareness of Delaney’s current difficulties.
Whether it affects his continuation remains to be seen. It appears, however, having tendered his resignation stepped aside from two roles in the space of three weeks, that the Waterford man will have plenty of time to ponder his next move.