More sensational news has broken in the wake of the FIFA corruption investigations, with claims the FAI took bribe to stop legal action against the Thierry Henry handball incident.
It emerged yesterday that the FAI, Football Association of Ireland, accepted a bribe from FIFA believed to be €5m (£3.6m) to stop them pursuing a legal case against France’s controversial World Cup Qualifying Play-off victory in 2009.
The controversy stemmed from a clear handball, committed by striker Thierry Henry in the lead up to France’s winning goal against the Irish.
The FAI obviously believed they had a case to either overturn the decision or get the match replayed.
The FAI Chief Executive John Delaney explained that his organisation and FIFA had reached a “legitmate agreement” to drop the legal case after the incident caused Ireland to miss out on a place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (a tournament also under scrutiny during these investigations).
Ireland, against all the odds, had forced the tie to extra-time. But with only 16 minutes left before the dreaded penalty shootout, Thierry Henry received the ball from Florent Malouda’s free-kick and clearly controlled the ball with his hand before crossing the ball to former Chelsea & Arsenal defender William Gallas to put them 2-1 up on aggregate.
Ireland couldn’t find that elusive equaliser, and bowed out of the qualifying stages with their World Cup dreams in tatters.
But FIFA see the payment to the FAI slightly differently. Although a spokesperson exclaimed that FIFA had “entered into an agreement with FAI in order to put an end to any claims” in terms of the controversial result. But the £3.6m pounds quoted was infact a loan to put towards “the construction of a stadium in Ireland.”
It was also added that the money would be repaid by the FAI to FIFA if Ireland were to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. They failed to do so, causing the alleged loan to be written off.
The FAI did concur that the money was used towards the building of the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
“This is fully reflected in our financial statements, which are audited independently. The FAI accepted FIFA’s settlement offer to avoid a long, costly and protracted legal case.
“The settlement has at no time influenced the FAI’s criticism of FIFA, as demonstrated by our consistent criticisms of Sepp Blatter.”
According to Delaney, he and Blatter came to a personal agreement on the figure, after the FIFA president laughed off claims that they would introduce Ireland as a 33rd team at the 2010 tournament. Delaney went on to explain in an interview on Irish radio that despite Blatter’s clear disagreement over the introduction of that 33rd team, the FAI had a very credible case.
“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.
“I told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used. We came to an agreement.
“It’s a very good agreement for the FAI and a very legitimate agreement for the FAI,”
This is just another of potentially many cases of corruption at FIFA. We shall just have to see if this is just the beginning of what has gone on.
Writer’s View: Delaney can go on all he wants about the fact the FIFA cheated his country out of a World Cup. But as despicable as the actions of FIFA were, the FAI are as much to blame.
I remember the night this happened, tens of thousands of devastated Irish supporters headed home absolutely inconsolable. Qualification to 2010 would have meant so much to the nation, who are extremely passionate when it comes to their nation side, in any sport.
But the simple fact is that it was a poor refereeing decision that cost them the game, as happens in our sport.
Even if the FAI did have a credible case, why didn’t they make it public at the time that they were going to FIFA to get the matter sorted?
I feel fairly sure that if the accusations of corruption at FIFA hadn’t been made, then we still wouldn’t have heard of this story.