Thursday, 17 November 2011

Gary McAllister and the Letter to the FAI

FAI causing "Apartheid" according to the AONISC
After overcoming Estonia over the two legs, Ireland have made it to the final stages of the European Championships. On Tuesday night, the result of 1-1 was irrelevant and the carnival atmosphere was king; the Lansdowne Roar is back.

The celebrations carried on well into the night and no doubt there were quite a few suffering yesterday as a result, FAI CEO John Delaney probably among them. I wonder, then, what he thought when he received a hand-delivered letter from Gary McAllister, the Chairman of the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs, asking him not to select northern born Irish nationals?

I'd say the letter still hasn't got to him, but if and when it does, he'll probably dismiss it, along with the other inane ramblings of Northern Ireland fans against the FAI. The letter apparently refers to an “ongoing situation” that is supposedly “immoral in footballing [sic] terms” and calls upon the FAI “to enter into a new, bi-lateral agreement with the Irish Football Association on the matter”.

Playing on Delaney's response to the acrimonious nature of elimination from the 2010 World Cup, Mr McAllister pleaded for the FAI Chief Executive “to apply the same principles of integrity which he himself had advocated when the Republic of Ireland fell victim to the infamous hand-ball elimination aganist France in 2009”.

What would such a bi-lateral agreement look like, I wonder? The Northern Ireland fans are proposing that the two associations reach an agreement that is not mutually beneficial: it suits the IFA only. If this is indeed a fan-driven incentive, I would suggest that FAI fans also have a say before any agreement is even considered. That would make things interesting, don't you think?

Furthermore, not only is the issue of player eligibility not "ongoing" having been settled since the autumn of 2010 when the IFA resoundingly lost their Court of Arbitration case, but to describe a northern born Irish national's decision to play for his country as “immoral” is outrageous. It is an insult. To accuse the FAI of encouraging a type of "Football Apartheid" is also utterly ludicrous. Sheer unbridled sensationalist tripe, is what it is. What about the fact that Northern Ireland fans insist on dividing the island into two teams, while other sports continue playing on an all-Ireland basis, could that be considered "Apartheid"? No, no. The FAI and players who look to Dublin rather than London (or even Belfast) are the bad guys here.

Thankfully I'm not the only one who considers these charges against the FAI and players who wish to play for their country as outrageously insulting; FAI CEO John Delaney has repeatedly made it known that he is extremely pleased that Irish nationals have the choice to play for their country - I'm sure he'll be keen to defend that choice, in the interests of protecting the integrity of national identity.

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