Republic of Ireland/FIFA

Much Ado About Nothing

As the worlds of Sepp Blatter, Jack Warner and their assorted cronies unravel thread by corrupt thread, the immediate resounding emotion for anyone who either loves football or detests institutional corruption on a truly epic scale, is of course relief. At last a rotten, disgracefully run organisation responsible for the most popular sport and event in the world has finally been found out for what it is.

Of course, the United States of America as with everything else that has ever happened in the history of mankind, are taking all the credit for taking down F.I.F.A. There’s no denying the crucial and indeed necessary intervention of the FBI –America is after all the home to the World Police– but the perceived idea that the Americans have arrived in the form of the saviours of world soccer is an extremely grating one. It should be made quite clear that there are several ongoing investigations, both criminal and investigate, relating to F.I.F.A. and it most certainly was neither the I.R.S. nor the F.B.I. that first attempted to navigate its way to FIFA’s rotten core. Incidentally, we’re still not entirely sure where exactly the FBI’s jurisdiction to make arrests of non-U.S. citizens on Swiss soil emanates. And, more pertinently, why other organisations are not being investigated.

As has been long documented in British sporting circles, it was highly regarded, Scottish investigative reporter Andrew Jennings -the man behind 2006’s enlightening Panorama documentary on the bribe culture within FIFA- who deserves serious kudos for getting beneath the skin of the snake and providing conclusive proof of the existence of systemic wrongdoing in the world football’s governing body. The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins gives Jennings his due credit in this article rightfully and thankfully conveying the point that it was Jennings’ lengthy, patient probing which deserves the credit and not just the FBI gun show.

Moving closer to home, we should be thankful for the recent admissions of our own holier-than-thou F.A.I. chief executive, John Delaney, relating to a pretty remarkable loan given by FIFA to the F.A.I. in the wake of Ireland’s failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Delaney’s action managed –in the wake of the one of the most amazing breakthroughs against institutional corruption- to steal even the global media spotlight for himself. Now, rather bizarrely, the Irish Sun reported this payment in 2014 but –to what must be considerable bemusement on the Sun’s part now- no other media outlets deemed this disclosure newsworthy at the time. Fast-forward twelve months and the Irish press has been rife in the last week with chest-thumping sanctimony.

How can journalists channel such indignation at last week’s news when only a year ago they were merely indifferent at best? In part, this may be down to John Delaney partaking in one of his now infamously bumbling performances, equal parts arrogance and self-congratulatory bravado. Delaney, as we all know now, went to great lengths to inform the country of his usurping of Sepp Blatter, laying the law down –swearing at Blatter no less– and walking out of the room with a €5 million gratuity from FIFA. Now, of course, we know one of the conditions of this ‘loan’ was that it would be written off if Ireland failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Which might just explain why Giovanni Trappatoni stayed in his job for as long as he did!

In relation to the payments, a few thoughts spring to mind. First, F.I.F.A. had even more unseemly amounts of money at their disposal than we first thought. In addition, if we were presiding over F.I.F.A., Delaney’s 2009 request for a thirty-three team World Cup to include Ireland – reportedly floated with a straight-face- would still have us in fits of laughter. And, finally, the F.A. might just rue the fact that the great egalitarian John Delaney wasn’t available to deliver his unique brand of justice when the ‘Hand of God’ crushed England’s hopes in the 1986 World Cup.

Interesting as well in a week where potentially favourable financial arrangements were to the fore that our great and enlightened leader Enda Kenny decided to row in on the curious payment to the F.A.I. describing the remuneration as ‘quite extraordinary’. Sadly Mr Kenny was not inclined to row in, or even give something resembling an opinion in relation to T.D. Catherine Murphy’s allegations, which, if true are in themselves, quite extraordinary. The F.A.I. are entitled to a certain degree of cloak and dagger activity, but the I.B.R.C. -funded by the taxpayers in this country must surely be an institution that demands transparency.

In any event, we are looking for deceit and scandal where, as is usually the case with John Delaney, there is only a healthy lack of self-awareness. As the furore already dies down there is a collective realisation that neither Delaney nor any of the F.A.I. officials profited personally from the FIFA ‘hush’ money. How about everyone climbs down from their magnificent high horses? Not liking John Delaney does not equate to him perpetrating a fraud or letting down the cause of the Irish team. When people are relying on the not so famously measured words of former French coach and confirmed head-the-ball Raymond Domenech then you know there’s not much of a case to answer.

This week’s re-emerging reports relating to Jack Warner and his siphoning of relief money in 2010 intended for the Haiti earthquakes to accounts in his own control cast the recent hullabaloo surrounding Delaney in an entirely different light. Stories like this of illicit and inexplicable FIFA payments the world over shall come slowly dropping as the year continues. Warner’s actions are nothing short of deplorable while Delaney, on the other hand, can be accused of little more than partaking in a somewhat obscure deal which on the face of it appears to have broken no laws. Delaney is many things –not all pleasant- but he is no fool, particularly when it comes to business. Perhaps by December, when Blatter hopefully disappears into the sunset, Delaney’s opportunistic and ludicrous performance will be little more than a footnote in a year when the cure for F.I.F.A. was finally discovered.

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