THERE WAS A sense of symmetry about the FAI selecting CityWest Hotel for their latest bout of public cleansing on Sunday.
It was, after all, this venue that deposed former chief executive John Delaney cited as an example of how he’d transformed the culture of the organisation.
A view of yesterday’s FAI AGM.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
The smoking ban had come into law just a few months before the young, vitalised Waterfordman became a law unto himself by taking on the ultimate role in November 2004.
Gone would be the era, he declared, of the FAI’s annual general meetings being synonymous with a row over a rule change in a smoke-filled room at the West Dublin venue.
No longer would football folk beyond The Pale feel marginalised.
From 2007, Delaney’s brainchild of the Festival of Football would be mobilised, starting in Kerry and trekking to Meath this year.
It was a novel and noble proposal, bringing ambassadors such as his constant companion Ray Houghton to clubs for ribbon-cutting ceremonies. The hosts were left in no doubt that Delaney had be front and centre of the pomp.
Delaney introduced new words to the AGM lexicon. The meeting on the final day of the festival marked the “completion of a great week for Irish football”.
Staff, low-paid even before paycuts started to be imposed in 2012, soon tired of hearing their supremo’s standard speech on the circuit.
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Quoting the advice of his mother Joan, Delaney couldn’t leave a stage without dishing out gifts, typically rafts of tickets for international matches.
The FAI’s ritual of releasing a statement showing where €100,000 of grants went in the county was discarded as the financial struggles caused by the CEO’s misguided Vantage vanity project spiked.
Also dispensed with from 2012 was the standard press conference. The tactic, to a degree, worked as the media presence shrunk.
Those that persisted in attending held a competition to count the number of times Delaney’s face appeared on an introductory video. He peaked in 2015 with appearances lurching into three figures.
Those members that possessed the bravery to interrupt the feelgood factor by posing legitimate questions got short shrift from the top table and even death stares some colleagues seated around them. The last query was all of a decade ago; three delegates being stonewalled for questioning a €5 million payment.
Other changes then should have sounded the alarm. For the first time in their history, the FAI breached their own rule of distributing the accounts 21 days in advance.