David Kelly: 'FAI's monumental debt is the burden of a lifetime – and it will take a lifetime to overcome it'

The path away from perdition is paved with good intentions.

But how can the FAI move forward when they don’t know which way to turn?

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When the very prospect of trying to take one step into the future cannot possibly happen because there is a weight so heavy that it is simply impossible to move.

And yet even standing still poses peril; a sinking feeling of despair plunging into a black hole of darkness.

The extent of the financial failure and the legacies of corporate governance – or lack of it – were even more shocking than even the glummest pessimists might have predicted.

 “A lot of it is like I had said it would be,” said executive lead Paul Cooke, the latest stand-in leader of the bedraggled organisation that puts the ‘FAI’ in failure.

“But it is also worse than I thought.”

The scale of the financial calamities that now engulf the organisation are off the charts; some, as we now know and as many long suspected, were also off the books.

The blizzard of extraordinary numbers presented in Abbottstown almost defied belief; even the forlorn filing cabinet seemed to be agape in astonishment, one of its open drawers a symbol of open-mouthed shock.

Mentions of millions of euro were casually tossed into the air as if mere sweet wrappings and for anyone involved in the sport, one can only presume they were desensitised by it all.

There will be job losses in the FAI, for certain. With the organisation on the verge of liquidation, even the assistance of UEFA will only be temporary.

Fleeing sponsors – another is likely to jump ship this week following the sudden decision of Three to pull the plug – may perhaps be replaced but not at a competitive price.

Austerity, applied with imbalance in the apparent boom times, will now affect all corners of the sport for at least another generation.

As the financial crash informed us, the consequences of mis-management will not always necessarily affect the gilded elite; instead, the under-privileged will shoulder the manifold burdens.

Blithe, even if seemingly heart-felt, assurances that the future starts now cannot simply magic away the unfolding nightmare in which the organisation is enveloped.

Trust, a commodity that costs not a single cent, and which cannot be acquiesced by paying a lavish salary, has been lost, perhaps permanently.

Remarkably, neither Cooke nor Conway mentioned the name of the “former CEO” in today’s broadcast from Abbottstown.

It is almost as if they were trying to convince themselves that John Delaney never existed. As if the mere possibility of erasing his name from their history would simply erase history itself.

If only it were so simple.

“I think there is a past and a future here,” outgoing president Donal Conway told us. “I think today is a significant line.”

But a line cannot be drawn upon sand if that it is the only thing upon which the FAI is now constructed.

Their past is their future and they cannot escape it. The Damoclean debt that now weighs them down represents the burden of a lifetime.

And it will take a lifetime to overcome it.

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