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BC-SOC--Ireland-Protest

March 26, 2019
Ireland fans hurled tennis balls onto the field during a European Championship qualifier against Georgia to protest against a top executive at the country’s football federation. John Delaney’s role at the Football Association of Ireland has come under renewed scrutiny since he went to court earlier this month to unsuccessfully block publication of a story about him loaning 100,000 euros to his employers.

DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland fans hurled tennis balls onto the field during a European Championship qualifier against Georgia on Tuesday to protest against a top executive at the country’s soccer federation.

John Delaney’s role at the Football Association of Ireland has come under renewed scrutiny since he went to court this month to unsuccessfully block publication of a story about him loaning 100,000 euros ($113,000) to his employers. There was a fresh wave of reports in the Sunday Times newspaper about the FAI funding Delaney’s home.

Delaney’s actions have been questioned by politicians and sports authorities in Ireland. The FAI announced Saturday that Delaney was moving from his job of chief executive to a newly-created role of executive vice president as part of a governance review, without explaining the need for the change. Delaney sits on the UEFA executive committee.

Ireland won Tuesday’s Euro 2020 qualifier 1-0. The balls were thrown on the field in the 33rd minute when Ireland was awarded a free kick. After a delay for the balls to be cleared, Conor Hourihane scored from the free kick to seal the victory.

There were also chants against Delaney, who has been CEO of the FAI since 2005 and has presided over the building of the Aviva Stadium — but also considerable controversy.

It took five years for Delaney to reveal the FAI received a $5 million loan from FIFA to stave off legal action following a contentious 2010 World Cup playoff game when Thierry Henry’s handball set up France’s winning goal against Ireland. The FAI in 2015 called the payment a “legal settlement agreement.”

In 2014, Delaney apologized after being filmed in a pub singing an Irish nationalist song about a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army who died in a 1981 prison hunger strike.

Delaney also helped secure Euro 2020 games for Ireland. In a tournament being staged across 12 European countries, the Irish capital has three group games and a round-of-16 fixture.

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