KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- John Delaney, once one of the most influential men in European football, has finally quit as a member of the governing body of continental federation UEFA.
Delaney’s exit from the international stage was an inevitable consequence of the financial scandal which overtook his leadership of the Football Association of Ireland and has threatened to undermine joint British and Irish bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2030.
The 52-year-old had become treasurer of the FAI in July 2001 – a position held previously by his father Joe – rose to chief executive officer in 2005 and won election to the UEFA executive committee in 2017.
Questions about his conduct arose first in October 2016 when he resigned as a vice-president of the Olympic Council of Ireland in the wake of a ticketing scandal surrounding president Patrick Hickey.
Delaney said then that he needed to focus on “ensuring the growth and development of football in Ireland.”
Trouble came closer to his FAI home last March when The Sunday Times revealed he had provided the FAI with a €100,000 loan in 2017. Delaney had sought in vain in court to prevent publication of the article.
Delaney’s job security was thrown into further doubt by a public comment from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who said: “It does seem a bit unusual, a body of that size, given its operations and the funding it receives. I would have thought it would have banking facilities that would have provided for a loan.”
The FAI accounts for 2017 had shown a surplus of €2.8m on revenues of €49m with no mention of Delaney’s loan.
A week after the article appeared Delaney, who has said it was the only time he gave such a loan and that it was repaid in full, stepped down as ceo into a newly-created role of executive vice-president. He has always denied any wrongdoing.
The FAI defined his new role as responsibility for international matters including all FIFA and UEFA matters and FAI tournament bidding projects. This included the prospect of a joint bid with the four British home associations to host the centenary World Cup in 10 years’ time.
That was not the end of the matter.
Further damage to Delaney’s shattered reputation emerged after The Sunday Times reported that he had spent almost €40,000 on his work credit card in the space of six months shortly before his personal bail-out of FAI.
He was then placed on “gardening leave or whatever it is called” according to Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy. This followed the launch of three inquiries into the FAI’s finances amid concerns about possible breaches of company law as well as into expenses and payments to third parties.
The Irish Times commented: “Lecturers in law, business or sports governance might construct entire courses around the mismanagement of [Irish] football’s governing body during the past decade or more.”
In September Delaney resigned altogether from the FAI. This raised doubts about his status within UEFA whose regulations demand that exco applicants should hold official positions within their national associations.
Delaney was not strictly in breach of that rule but, clearly, he would not have been able to stand for re-election and his ability to represent Irish football was non-existent.
His resignation was announced by UEFA in a statement which praised Delaney’s “important role” in its television rights strategy.
UEFA takes note of John Delaney’s resignation with immediate effect from his position as UEFA Executive Committee member which was due to end in 2021.
During his time on the Executive Committee, John Delaney played a leading role in helping UEFA to achieve many things. He was instrumental in the expansion of the EURO to 24 teams, which proved such a success in 2016.
Several teams that may not otherwise have qualified proved that they have a contribution to make on the biggest stage, with Wales’ run to the semifinals and Iceland’s elimination of England standing out as examples of this.
He was an important figure in the move to centralise the TV rights across national team competitions – something which has benefited all UEFA member associations and which was rolled out into the new UEFA Nations League tournament.
UEFA wishes him well in the future.