Former Ireland international and RTÉ Soccer analyst Richard Sadlier has said it is “very difficult to believe at any level” that FAI chief executive John Delaney was unaware of the existence of a video of him singing a republican song or that his version of events wasn’t clear to the FAI by the time letters were sent to English newspapers denying he was in the video.
Delaney was forced to apologise earlier this week after emergence of the video, in which he is seen singing the republican ballad Joe McDonnell, in a Dublin bar after the Republic of Ireland’s recent victory over the USA.
Last Monday, solicitors acting on Delaney’s behalf contacted the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers, stating that they had been instructed to deny it was Delaney in the video, and warning that legal proceedings would follow if they published stories relating to it.
On Tuesday, Delaney confirmed on the 2FM Tubridy Show that it was in fact him on the video. Later on Tuesday he issued a statement in which he appeared to allude to the solicitor’s comments to the Guardian and the Telegraph, saying: "Yesterday [Monday], during the day, I was travelling back with my partner from abroad and trying to deal primarily with the serious cyber bullying issues facing her.
"I now understand that while I was travelling and un-contactable there was some confusion through a third party around the background of a video which appeared and where it happened which led to misunderstanding.”
Delaney’s statement did not deal with a claim from the balls.ie website, which was contacted by an FAI representative on Saturday, 22 November after it had posted an article about the video on Friday, 21 November.
"The FAI representative "advised we take the post down as we were leaving ourselves open to legal proceedings," Balls.ie deputy editor Mark Farrelly wrote.
Farrelly continued: "When questioned on whether or not it was Delaney in the video, we were told that it wasn’t him."
“It’s moved on so much from a discussion around the rights and wrongs of singing that song" - Richard Sadlier
Speaking on RTÉ Sport’s Saturday Sport, Sadlier said the issue had moved on from Delaney’s singing of the song to how the emergence of the video had been dealt with.
“It’s moved on so much from a discussion around the rights and wrongs of singing that song. I think the way in which the FAI or John himself, has responded to the emergence of that video I think is even more the story now.
“Just to run through, briefly, what happened: this video emerged and Balls.ie put it online on Saturday morning [sic; Balls.ie say they published the video on the Friday night]. I think newspapers contacted the FAI for response and there was silence; the FAI said nothing.
“An FAI official or a spokesperson contacted the website directly, saying that there would be legal ramifications if it remained online, and denied that it was John. They said, ‘That’s not John Delaney in that video.’
“On Monday, legal letters were sent, on behalf of John Delaney, to two major newspapers in England, again repeating – they said ‘My client’s position is that it’s not him in that video.’
“Now, if John Delaney ever stated that position to any lawyer, then he is lying.”
Questioned whether the legal letter was sent on behalf of Delaney or the FAI, Sadlier said: “The wording of the legal letter was, ‘It is my client’s position that it is not him.’ It’s a personal ‘him’, so it’s referring to an individual.
“So we’re going to assume that at some point John Delaney must have stated that position or someone maybe without John Delaney’s knowledge whatsoever, on Monday evening, made this claim on his behalf.
“So what that version of events seems to suggest is that, despite the FAI knowing on Saturday morning of the existence of this video, that on Monday evening, more than 48 hours later, John Delaney still hadn’t been made aware of the video, or his version of events was still unclear to his colleagues in the FAI.
“I find that very difficult to believe at any level: that two and a half days after a video would emerge online, that John Delaney wouldn’t clearly state whether it was him or not.”
"It’s just an exhibition in how you don’t manage a controversy, a crisis, a PR issue, whatever you want to describe this as"
Sadlier dismissed as a side issue Delaney’s mentions of “things in his personal or the personal life of people he’s in a relationship with” – an apparent allusion to the cyber-bullying Delaney mentioned.
“I’m talking about him in his position as the FAI CEO and the handling of the organisation, of the FAI, of this story, which, I think, has been nothing short of calamitous, from the whole week. I mean, it’s just an exhibition in how you don’t manage a controversy, a crisis, a PR issue, whatever you want to describe this as. It’s been a really bad week, the majority [of which was] their own making.”
On Thursday FAI President Tony Fitzgerald issued a statement in which the FAI Board gave Delaney its backing.
Sadlier agreed that Delaney’s statement on Tuesday had indicated that he, Delaney, did not know about the initial mis-identification because he was “un-contactable”, but said: “I’d wonder, then, where’s his priorities? If three days had passed – my own view is that I find it staggering that none of his colleagues in the FAI would actually ask him, go: ‘John, is that you in the video?’
“Someone in the FAI contacted Balls.ie on Saturday morning and said, ‘That’s not John Delaney in the video.’ That’s a matter of record and no-one’s disputing that. So that official then was acting, having not contacted John, which I find – is that the way, is that the working of the FAI these days? Is that how they deal with issues like this?”