Thursday 22 March 2018

FIFA: We gave Ireland a $5m loan following Thierry Henry handball saga to build a stadium - it was written off last year

FAI says 'legitimate' payment was put towards Aviva Stadium and 'fully reflected' in their financial statements

Thierry Henry handball saga Photo: RTE
Thierry Henry handball saga Photo: RTE
Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

FIFA has said that it provided the FAI with a $5m loan for the construction of a stadium following the Thierry Henry handball debacle, which was written off when Ireland failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

FAI chief executive John Delaney today confirmed that the Association received financial compensation from FIFA following the infamous handball in 2009. FIFA claims that lump sum was to be reimbursed if Ireland had qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Ireland were deprived a place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after losing to France in a two-legged play-off. Giovanni Trapattoni's side were level at 1-1 in Paris and heading for a penalty shoot-out when Henry's illegal intervention allowed William Gallas score the winner and break Irish hearts.

"We felt we had a legal case against FIFA because of how the World Cup hadn't worked out for us with the Henry handball," Delaney told The Ray D'Arcy Show on RTE Radio One today.

"Also the way Blatter behaved if you remember on stage when he had a snigger and a laugh at us.

"That day when I went into him and told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used, we came to an agreement."

Delaney says the agreement was a significant boost to the FAI.

Read more: John Delaney: FIFA paid us off after Thierry Henry handball so we wouldn't take legal case

"That [agreement] was on a Thursday and by Monday it was all signed. It's a very good agreement for the FAI, a very legitimate agreement for the FAI. In that agreement they put a confidentiality agreement that I can't talk about the amount involved. You [Ray D'Arcy] have used a figure there [€5m], but it was a very good, legitimate figure for the FAI.

"It was a payment to the Association not to proceed with a legal case.”

FIFA has followed this with a statement of their own, explaining that the loan was written off after Ireland failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"While the referee's decision is final [France v Ireland play-off 2009], and the FAI ultimately accepted it as such, in January 201 FIFA entered into an agreement with the FAI in order to put to an end any claims against FIFA," the statement read.

"FIFA granted FAI loan of $5m for the construction of a stadium in Ireland. At the same time, UEFA also granted the FAI funds for the same stadium.

"The terms granted between the FAI and FIFA were that the loan would be reimbursed if Ireland qualified for the 2014 World Cup. Ireland did not qualify. Because of this, and in view of the FAI's financial situation, FIFA, decided to write off the loan as per 31 December."

Tonight the FAI has released its own statement saying that the "legitimate" payment was put towards the Aviva Stadium and "fully reflected" in their financial statements.

FAI chief executive John Delaney
FAI chief executive John Delaney

"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 statement read.

"The matter has been reported before in the media however the Association has, until now, abided by the confidentiality agreement required by FIFA as part of the settlement.

"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.

"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."

Delaney earlier reiterated his stance that outgoing president Sepp Blatter was an "embarrassment" to world FIFA, something he told the 79-year-old personally.

Read more: John Delaney: Sepp Blatter stared at my partner Emma and said 'I approve' – I told him to move on

John Delaney and Emma English
John Delaney and Emma English

"In 2009 I called him an embarrassment to FIFA and to himself. He called me over about that, across the table like I am talking to you, with one or two expletives," he said.

"That was in a room. He said, ‘No-one speaks to me like that', and I said, ‘well I do' and that was that."

When asked if he had ever been offered a bribe, Delaney laughed: "No, not on my salary."

Blatter announced on Tuesday he was standing down amid two separate corruption inquiries being carried out by the FBI and the Swiss authorities into the conduct of senior officials at the world governing body.

Delaney also revealed a recent meeting Blatter had with Delaney's partner Emma English, where the FAI was forced to tell the FIFA boss to stop staring at the PR event organiser.

"He met Emma, my partner, in Vienna recently. He stared at her for seven or eight seconds and he said, 'I approve of your new girlfriend'".

"I asked him to move on, move on please.

"She is a great girl, I love her very much, it was an extraordinary moment. If she was here she would tell you herself. He stared at her and I said 'move on' and he did."

Meanwhile, the fall-out from recent events within FIFA continues to make worldwide headlines.

Read more: FAI boss John Delaney fears Sepp Blatter will hand-pick his successor

Chuck Blazer, formerly a senior official with the CONCACAF confederation which represents North American, Central American and Caribbean nations, has admitted in an FBI plea bargain published by the US Department of Justice on Wednesday that he and other FIFA executive committee members took bribes in relation to the 2010 and 1998 World Cup bids.

Warner, Blazer's former colleague at CONCACAF, was also named in the US indictment on alleged FIFA corruption and resigned from all football activity in 2011 following separate bribery allegations surrounding that year's FIFA presidential elections.

Speaking on Wednesday in his native Trinidad, Warner promised an "avalanche" of revelations would come out about his dealings with Blatter and FIFA, and said Blatter could not carry on until the election of a new FIFA president, which may not happen until as late as March next year.

Read more: 'Has Blatter done a deal to get his man in?' - John Delaney

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