Silly season is really upon us in newsrooms across the various media outlets. The more sensational elements of the media in this country have really gone into overdrive this week in the wake of the news that the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) accepted a five million euro payment from the game’s governing body, FIFA, in the wake of the now infamous Thierry Henry handball incident during a 2009 world cup qualifier. This of course after the arrests of various FIFA officials the previous week on alleged historic corruption allegations, and the resignation of Sepp Blatter in the firestorm that ensued.
Words synonymous with our ever splendid politicians such as ‘corruption’ and ‘bribe’ were screamed and bleated at almost every opportunity in both the broadsheets and the tabloids. The premise being that FIFA bought the FAI’s supposed cowardly silence instead of having the indignity of a legal challenge being mounted in the wake of what was a fairly grotesque injustice. The notion that any court would have seriously taken such as challenge is self-evidently a nonsense. If that logic were to prevail, England could conceivably do the same over the Diego Maradona ‘Hand of God’ against them during the 1986 world cup. Some would argue Henry was karma for Ireland fans using that as a source of ridicule for our cross channel cousins.
Whilst we can level many accusations at the FAI as regards their own shortcomings, the handling of the Roy Keane Saipan affair, a total complacency in regards the disintegration of the domestic league, it has to be said they really got the best possible deal for Ireland. It was a catch 22 for the association. If Ireland’s case had not been pushed, the FAI would have been accused of timid surrender. As it turned out, they pushed enough to obtain a sum of money equivalent to the amount we would have received for qualifying. Whilst I’m not trying to suggest money should ever override the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship that game should itself encompass. The embarrassing and hasty proposal for us to be a 33rd team in WC 2010 (‘Please Mr.Blatter, we’ll bring our own balls’) was most likely a ploy to scare FIFA, and it worked a treat.
The almost relentless badgering of John Delaney over this matter stinks of lazy journalism and another stark example of the mainstream media’s innate and unwithering ability to attempt to whip up hysteria over total non issues. The only goal being to sell papers. The FAI is an old reliable and easy target due to their well known unpopularity with the general public, similar to Irish water among others. Did these same journalists go after olympic gold medal winning swimmer Michelle Smith after her well publicised suspicious doping tests? No, for the simple reason she was a national treasure (and you question them at your peril), a status John Delaney will never occupy. It’s not as if he pocketed the money himself, for once the money was used for a noble footballing cause, something to be commended amidst the seemingly never ending spiral of money blighting our beautiful game.
The money, according the FAI, was used for the new Lansdowne Road stadium. The question is not that the role of sports journalists is to hold people in positions of power and influence within the game to account. But more so is the game being done a disservice by attempting to use cheap populism to appeal to football fans emotional side for profit driven ends? Only time will tell on that.Whilst John Delaney is not a herculean footballing colossus and a bastion of all that is holy and virtuous, he deserves credit on this one. This is really all just a storm in a teacup, but a welcome interlude from a summer of inevitable ridiculous transfer rumours.