Belfast Telegraph

Time running out for controversial FAI chief Delaney

Departure: John Delaney
Departure: John Delaney

By Daniel McDonnell

The process for John Delaney's departure from the Football Association Ireland (FAI) is expected to be confirmed today, as board members scramble to answer critics amid threats to €15m in funding.

The FAI has been in the eye of a political storm since it emerged that former CEO Mr Delaney provided it with a bridging loan in April 2017 to prevent it exceeding a €1.5m bank overdraft.

At a government committee hearing which took place over seven hours last Wednesday, FAI board members appeared unable to answer basic questions, including how many bank accounts the organisation has, and often refused to answer citing legal or commercial limitations.

Irish Sports Minister Shane Ross heaped further misery on the beleaguered association as he warned it may not be eligible for new large capital sports grants - worth more than €15m - unless it gets its house in order.

Mr Delaney has told friends that he has tendered his resignation from his role as executive vice president to the board and they will let him know their verdict after a meeting today.

It's believed that members of the FAI board are furious with Delaney's messages to his backers as it suggests that he is taking the lead on his imminent exit - when the main voices on the decision making body now want him to go.

But the Abbotstown authorities have also spent the weekend formulating their latest response to Sport Ireland ahead of (its chief executive) John Treacy's return to the Oireachtas committee tomorrow along with Mr Ross.

Mr Ross has told the FAI they will not be eligible for new capital sports grants unless they provide answers to Sport Ireland questions around corporate governance arising from Mr Delaney's €100,000 loan to the Association in 2017.

A €5m grant to the Aviva Stadium for a Euro 2020 upgrade and funding for a €10m centre of excellence at Glanmire in Cork are two projects that are now vulnerable because of the FAI crisis.

The renovation of Dalymount Park in Dublin is another concern, and stadium projects for Finn Harps and Drogheda Utd will also come under the radar.

There have been calls for the entire FAI board to step aside but a sub-committee led by president Donal Conway is hoping to ride out the storm by formulating a response.

"It's not entirely clear that Delaney going solves it," said one Irish Government source. "It seems like other heads will have to roll."

Last night the FAI released a statement which said they would have replies ready and they had noted comments from Mr Ross and Oireachtas Committee chair Fergus O'Dowd about their silence.

"The FAI is engaging with Sport Ireland on the composition of a new governance committee with additional independent members and the appointment of an independent person to the committee of the board examining the current issues," said the statement.

"The association continues to work to restore the trust of its stakeholders.

"The FAI wants to ensure that all those who play football across Ireland do not suffer as a result of the actions of the association."

In the statement, the FAI confirmed their meeting today, which will also deal with how to handle the complexities of Mr Delaney's exit.

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