In recent weeks, football has been rocked to its very foundations, and at long last there are whispers of change.
Except in Ireland.
In Ireland, FAI CEO John Delaney, who earns over €300,000 a year, revealed a secret payment of €5 million from an institutionally corrupt organisation (FIFA) that was kept secret from FAI members and the paying public.
That €5 million was the price of Ireland’s silence for an erroneous refereeing decision.
(In fact, it was ostensibly for “reputational damage” to the FAI – but if you’re stupid enough to ask to be the 33rd nation at the World Cup, you deserve all the ridicule you get.)
Unfortunately, there are more sinister goings-on at the FAI than a simple €5 million backhander, and pretty much all of them have to do with protecting its most powerful man.
Over the weekend came the revelation that a match program for the Scotland game was printed, and then pulped, and a new one produced, with references to transparency and accountability removed.
The remarks were contained in Delaney’s address to the Irish football family in the program.
A statement released by the FAI said that Delaney was “entirely unaware of this change to the programme.”
That statement is not even remotely credible.
Any communications executive – in this case former Ryanair spokesman Peter Sherrard, who was thrown under the bus in a statement released by the association – changing the words of the CEO in a document for public circulation, about a topic of global public interest, and without that CEO’s consent, can expect to be sacked on the spot.
Unawareness, it seems, can be used to explain away a myriad of inconsistencies.
When a video clip of him singing a Republican song was circulated online last year, Delaney’s solicitors – the favourite tool of the powerful (such as Delaney’s good friend Denis O’Brien) when it comes to steering the discourse about matters of public interest – contacted media outlets, saying that they would simply deny that it was their client in the video.
Except it was him.
But Delaney was, of course, “unaware” of the legal threats, as he was on an aeroplane at the time.
But despite his being indisposed on a plane, it seems taking to the air is not for everyone.
On Saturday, fans had gathered money together to organise a fly-over of Landsdowne Road by a light plane pulling a “Delaney Out!” banner.
In an even more sinister development, Gardaí – who have no jurisdiction in such matters – visited the Weston Airport where the plane was based in an “advisory” capacity, and reportedly cited health and safety concerns.
For the last two home games, fans – in particular those headed for the “singing section” at Landsdowne Road which provides much, if not all, of the atmosphere at Ireland games – have been searched on the way into the ground.
Banners and flags – especially those critical of the FAI or with “Delaney Out!” messages printed on them – have been confiscated.
On occasion, the reason being given was that the banners and flags weren’t “registered”, whatever that is supposed to mean.
The fans have, according to themselves, been surrounded in an intimidating fashion by security personnel during the games against England and Scotland.
The official FAI Twitter account has so far refused to engage with me on the issue – not uncommon when one’s media policy is basically the North Korean playbook.