Sports body pocketed millions over handball incident
Sports body pocketed millions over handball incident


Confirmation that the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) received a seven-figure sum from Sepp Blatter’s FIFA as secret compensation for an infamous foul which knocked Ireland out of the World Cup playoffs in 2009 has been greeted with disgust at home and abroad.

Six years ago, the Irish soccer team were 16 minutes away from a penalty shoot-out to decide a place in the finals before a deliberate handball by France’s Thierry Henry led to an extra-time equaliser.

A media frenzy in the game’s aftermath included calls for the game to be replayed. “This is not about money, it’s about sporting integrity,” the FAI chief executive John Delaney said at the time.

Sepp Blatter, the notorious FIFA President who resigned from the position on Tuesday, poked fun at such claims and publicly mocked Ireland for seeking to be included in the World Cup as a 33rd country.

Mr Delaney (pictured) said on Thursday that these events led to the payment, which he insisted was “very legitimate”.

“We felt we had a legal case against Fifa because of how the World Cup hadn’t worked out for us because of the Henry handball,” he said. “Also the way Blatter behaved if you remember on stage, having a snigger, having a laugh at us.

“So that day when I went in, I told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used. We came to an agreement. That was a Thursday and on the Monday, the agreement was all signed and all done. It was a good agreement for the FAI, a very legitimate agreement for the FAI.”

But the claim that the money was a “loan” -- which was intended to be paid back if Ireland qualified for the following World Cup -- has added to suspicions, as a loan written off on a pretext is a common way of making a corrupt payment in Ireland.

Delaney is currently the head of the FAI on a record high salary of 360,000 euro per annum, more than twice that of the Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Kenny himself said the five million euro payment was “quite extraordinary” and said Delaney should answer all questions in relation to the transaction.

Tanaiste Joan Burton said she found the story “intriguing”. She said: “Particularly the meeting where you have a few hot words and leave with five million euro in your pocket.”

Commentators have described as “hush money” to keep the FAI quiet and amounted to “patronage” for the its support for Blatter in the 90s. Former Fifa Vice-President Jim Boyne called for an investigation, saying the payment was “ridiculous.” Former manager of France Raymond Domenech, who was coach at the time of the controversial game, said it was “disgraceful” and “unacceptable”.


Despite the scandal, Delaney actually has a more immediate concern -- a football friendly with England on Sunday. Organisers are rolling out a huge security operation for the first Dublin encounter between the sides since February 1995.

Around 1,300 English soccer fans are banned from the stadium after riots broke out 20 years ago. On that occasion, seats were ripped up and missiles thrown as England fans fought battles with Gardai, later found to be orchestrated by far-right group Combat 18.

The lunchtime kick-off for the Ireland vs England friendly is designed to minimise the impact of alcohol consumption. Licensing laws in Dublin prohibit bars and off-licences from selling alcohol until 12.30pm on Sundays, meaning little or no alcohol will be consumed before the game.

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