FIFA have broken their silence on affairs at the FAI with a short statement that said “In order to properly asses the situation, FIFA has contacted the FAI and requested clarification about the latest developments. We are awaiting their response. In the meantime please understand we cannot comment further.
This engagement has been hovering in the background since the story first broke of John Delaney’s €100,000 loan and will have escalated in the corridors of power in Switzerland as Sport Ireland, the Office for the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Government got involved.
There are now three paths which this could progress down.
The first is that a watching brief will be maintained but that no direct involvement will take place.
Despite its own issues in recent years FIFA is the World Governing Body and will always be mindful of both the financial stability and the reputation of its members. That said it would no doubt prefer that everything is resolved at local level.
The second option is that FIFA will appoint a ‘normalisation committee’ to assist in that process and advise on the best ways of making everything good again.
This would be similar to the International Monetary Fund intervening in the Irish economic crisis of a decade ago. We were criticised by certain sections of the mainstream media for suggesting that intervention was a possibility some weeks ago but this does now seem an entirely possible scenario.
FIFA has acted in this way recently in Kuwait, Greece, Argentina, Uruguay, Thailand and others.
Article 14.1 of the FIFA Statutes suggest that one of the reasons for the appointment of a committee might be that a Member Association cannot guarantee to manage their affairs independently and that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties.
In the past normalisation committees have consisted of between three and six members who effectively take over the running of the Association until it can be handed back to local control.
They have generally consisted of FIFA officials and independent individuals from within the country.
Should such action take place it will temporarily damage Ireland’s reputation but as we saw with the IMF, that tends to pass.
The third potential path is unlikely but cannot be ignored and would be the temporary suspension of the FAI from international and club competition.
This happened in 2011 when issues with the coming together of Bosnia-Herzegovina led to a six-month suspension. It is really only in the case of overt political interference that this would come into play and while the Oireachtas Committee might be seen from the outside as having stepped close, it would not be near deemed to have exerted undue influence by forcing, rather than strongly suggesting the dismissal of the entire board.
The games continue, the investigations continue. We now know with absolute certainty though that the world is watching.