The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) yesterday confirmed that FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, paid the association $5.6 million to prevent legal proceedings regarding a World Cup play-off in 2009.
FAI chief executive John Delaney broke the news with RTÉ yesterday saying that the Irish association had come to an agreement to be re-compensated financially in return for ending any legal case they may have planned to take against FIFA.
The legal case in question was an incident of handball that put an end to Ireland’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. Near the end of a World Cup play-off game between Ireland and France, French player Thierry Henry handled the ball before making the pass that led to the goal that sent the French through to the World Cup.
The FAI initially called for a replay of the match or to be put forward to the World Cup as a “33rd team,” a suggestion that was publicly sneered at by the recently resigned FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
Speaking with Ray D’Arcy on RTÉ Radio One, Delaney admitted, "We felt we had a legal case against FIFA because of how the World Cup play-off hadn’t worked out for us with the Henry handball."
"Also the way Blatter behaved, if you remember on stage, having a snigger and having a laugh at us. That day when I went in, and I told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used. We came to an agreement.
"That was a Thursday and on Monday the agreement was all signed and all done. It’s a very good agreement for the FAI and a very legitimate agreement for the FAI. I’m bound by confidentiality from naming the figure."
The agreement was initially reported as being a payment to the FAI of $5.6 million. Although Delaney said he could not confirm the exact figure for reasons of confidentiality, he refused to deny it.
When questioned on the subject of a $5.6 million payment by RTÉ, he replied: "You’ve put a figure out there and fair play to you. It was a payment to the association to not proceed with a legal case. In there they put in a confidentiality agreement where I can’t talk about the amount involved.
"You used a figure there, well done to you, but it was a very good and legitimate deal for the FAI."
Following Delaney's claims, FIFA issued a statement to confirm that the agreement reached with the FAI was for a figure of $5 million. The money, they said, was seen as a loan for building a new stadium, which was subsequently written off when the Republic of Ireland soccer team failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
FIFA stated that "in view of the FAI’s financial situation, FIFA decided to write off the loan as per 31 December 2014.”
The FAI has since released their own statement confirming the figure received from FIFA and that a legal settlement agreement took place.
The statement reads: "Further to FIFA's statement this evening in relation to the €5m settlement with the FAI, the Association can now confirm that a legal settlement agreement was reached with FIFA following the threat of a legal case by the Association against world governing body in early 2010.
"The settlement was reached following strong legal advice given to the Association regarding the case against FIFA, and was a legitimate payment that enabled the Association to put €5m into the Aviva stadium project. This is fully reflected in our financial statements which are audited independently. The Association accepted FIFA's settlement offer to avoid a long, costly and protracted legal case. The offer given to the Association was fully written off by FIFA in 2014."
The statement continued to address the relationship between the FAI and FIFA following this agreement saying, "FIFA's settlement with the Association has at no time influenced the FAI's criticism of FIFA as demonstrated by our consistent criticisms of Sepp Blatter. Furthermore the settlement was made without any conditions other than confidentiality."
FIFA is the international soccer organization responsible for the management of the sport’s major international tournaments, such as the World Cup. In the past week, a web of corruption within FIFA has been revealed, in particular regarding bids to host the World Cup. Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner and 13 other major figures in world soccer were arrested last week and charged with corruption by US authorities.
Delaney said that it appears that when countries are now making bids to host the World Cup, it is obvious that certain countries have money set aside to bribe Sepp Blatter or former FIFA executive committee member, American Chuck Blazer, knowing that it will improve their chances.
Blazer has already admitted to accepting bribes before the 1998 World Cup in France and the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
As it stands, it is believed that England may now host the 2022 World Cup, previously awarded to Qatar while the controversy has now spread to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The influence of FIFA officials may even have spread outside of the football sphere, however, with Warner declaring in a public TV broadcast, following his arrest earlier this week, that he could prove a link between FIFA officials and the 2010 election in Trinidad and Tobago.
Despite his re-election as FIFA President just last week, Blatter has since made the decision to step down. In his first public statement since the announcement, he revealed his plans for future reform within FIFA.
“I had a good, constructive meeting with [audit and compliance chairman] Mr. Scala to establish a framework for action and a timetable,” he announced.
“I am pleased to take advice and guidance from Mr. Scala. I want a comprehensive program of reform and I am very aware that only the FIFA Congress can pass these reforms. Furthermore, the Executive Committee has a particular duty to share the responsibility of driving this process.”
D’Arcy also questioned Delaney on whether or not he had ever been bribed while working for the FAI.
You can hear the full interview with Delaney here.
Should the FAI have accepted this agreement with FIFA? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.