John Delaney’s election to the Executive Committee of UEFA this week is a mark of his personal ability to get things done. It’s reporting and public discourse though focused as ever on how much he is paid as opposed to the fact he is only the second administrator from the country to reach this level of influence in the international game.
To deal with the election first, his tally of 48 votes among his peers was the second highest of the eight elected to the group that runs the European game. Delaney is a consummate politician, and those who enter his circle are in turn charmed and persuaded to do what is best for Irish football.
The submission to host matches in the Euro 2020 Championship Finals was the second highest scoring of those submitted from across Europe.
It was the result of work by many competent individuals but they were brought together in the first place and led by Delaney.
Now he will represent Ireland at the highest level in a sporting business the revenues for which from the Euro 2016 tournament alone were €1.93 Billion. The club competitions it oversees this season will generate another €2.35 Billion. As a point of comparison, UEFA is worth a third of Ireland’s Agri Business.
Ireland has had three administrators take up office at European level in recent years within individual sports.
In Cricket Warren Deutrom represented the associate nations at World Cricket’s top table. Now Ireland stands poised to enter the Test playing Elite.
In Paralympic Sport Liam Harbison stepped up and Ireland won the right to host the 2018 European Para Swimming Championships.
In Basketball Bernard O’Byrne was elected to the FIBA Europe leadership group and this August Ireland will host the European U19 Women’s Basketball Championship.
These things are a reflection of Ireland’s standing. They happen though because individuals are willing to get up before many have gone to bed in order to catch flights from Dublin Airport to sit around tables and argue the case for Ireland. It’s not the worst job in the world but neither is it the path of greatest comfort.
Yet the narrative around Delaney centres on the fact that he might be paid an additional €100,000 for being part of the leadership group in charge of the financial giant that is UEFA.
The FAI is not a perfect construct. Yet Ireland is to the fore in terms of Development Leagues at U19, U17 and U15. This week’s issues notwithstanding we have a plan for Women’s soccer that is delivering at grassroots and sees our U17 and U19 teams competing at the highest levels of the game.
The SSE Airtricity League is generating more interest this year than for many years and is on an upward trajectory.
We hosted the Europa League Final and will host four matches in the Euro 2020 Finals. Things could be a lot worse, whether we want to admit it or not.
Sports administration is not an easy task. Everyone thinks they could do it better, and cheaper.
Criticism is part and parcel of the job and you’d never get by without a thick skin. Delaney’s must be as thick as they come. We do like to be critical in Ireland. It’s part of what we are and anyone who steps into the public spotlight should be clearly aware of that.
In this case though, and clearly going against the grain of the wave of public opinion, John Delaney deserves to get some credit.