'All that money was properly accounted for': John Delaney defends acceptance of €5m FIFA payment
FAI Chief John Delaney has defended the acceptance of a five million euro payment from FIFA following Thierry Henry's infamous World Cup handball.
Mr Delaney admitted that the payment, which plunged the sporting organisation into turmoil, was a "contentious matter".
But he said it was fully accounted for by the organisation.
Addressing the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Delaney took a thinly veiled swipe at ex-FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, who he said was not a friend
And he said FIFA has been damaged by recent allegations of corruption.
“The brand of FIFA was very much damaged by the events. And I think they will unfold still over the next period of time as certain cases taken place.”
Asked by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy about the €5m payment from FIFA, Mr Delaney said the FAI had been fully transparent.
"All that money was properly accounted for and signed off by the auditors," Mr Delaney told TDs and senators on Wednesday, adding that the issue was a "contentious matter" at the time. He said that the money was split, with €1m being paid initially followed by €4m at a later date.
The FAI boss also pointed out that the committee had previously agreed not to discuss the issue.
As revealed previously by Independent.ie, Mr Delaney contacted members of the committee - some of whom were present on Wednesday - ahead of a scheduled appearance in 2015. There had been a desire to question Mr Delaney about the payment, which was made to the FAI following the Henry handball during the Ireland-France qualifier in 2010.
In an unusual move, committee chairman Brendan Griffin allowed Mr Delaney to take all questions in advance on Wednesday as he had another professional engagement he need to attend.
Other witnesses - GAA boss Páraic Duffy and IRFU boss Mr Philip Browne - took questions once Mr Delaney left.
Prior to his departure, Mr Delaney rejected suggestions that the FAI lacked transparency in relation to its financial accounts.
And he urged the Government to introduce new laws to tackle ticket touting.
"We would like that it would be illegal in this country to sell tickets above face value," Mr Delaney said.
Mr Delaney said the FAI supports proposals to increase the number of allocated places at the World Cup.
He said that he was in favour of any move that would improve the qualification prospects of Ireland, adding that the issue will be discussed at European level next week.
“It has proven a big success to go from 16 teams to 24. It didn’t affect the quality of the competition at all. Most of the narrative on the Euros has been very, very strong,” Mr Delaney said.
“In theory, I and the FAI would be supportive of increasing the number of teams from 24 and 48… any opportunity that gives Ireland a greater opportunity of getting to a World Cup, in theory I would support,” he added.
Mr Delaney was also asked about how the FAI can prevent homegrown players from leaving the League of Ireland.
He told the committee that it can be “very difficult” to prevent talented players from leaving for overseas, citing Seamus Coleman’s departure from Sligo Rovers to Everton.
He said pay and profile were major factors.
Mr Delaney said that “ultimately, the best players in world football will go and play against the best”.
Under questioning from Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, Mr Delaney defended the FAI’s governance procedures.
He said there is a new age limit of 75 in terms of board members but that members elected before this change can remain for longer.
Meanwhile, the issue of gender quotas was also raised at the committee.
Both Mr Delaney and Mr Browne said they disagreed with any moves towards "tokenism".
Mr Browne added: "The suggestion by the government that it is considering the imposition of gender quotas on sports organisations is a concern for the simple reason that female rugby is still in its infancy and it will be difficult to find suitably qualified female candidates with the accumulated rugby wisdom and skills set to fill such quotas without retreating to tokenism."