FIFA paid $5million to buy Ireland’s silence after Thierry Henry’s infamous handball cost the Republic a place at the 2010 World Cup finals.
FA of Ireland chief executive John Delaney confirmed the deal in another example of how shamed president Sepp Blatter ran FIFA like a private fiefdom, making up the rules as he went along.
The arbitrary payment — around £3.25m — was made after Delaney complained about Blatter making public a confidential meeting with an Irish delegation who were chasing compensation. Blatter ridiculed the Irish for wanting a 33rd wildcard spot in South Africa, after Henry’s deliberate handball set up France’s decisive goal in the play-off second leg in Paris.
Nevertheless, FIFA agreed the pay-out to head off legal action by the Irish. The contract is understood to have included the proviso along the lines: ‘If you confirm this publicly, we will fine you.’
While Delaney did not specify the sum, he told RTE Radio 1: ‘We felt we had a legal case against FIFA because of the Henry handball; also the way Blatter behaved, having a snigger and 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 and legitimate agreement for the FAI. I’m bound by confidentiality from naming that figure. 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.’
The FAI say the money was fully accounted for and spent on building the Aviva Stadium, where they play England in a friendly on Sunday.
FIFA admit they paid the money to avoid legal action but claim it was a loan towards construction costs that was waived after Ireland failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
The FAI said it had been a ‘legitimate payment’ and added: ‘The Association accepted FIFA’s settlement offer to avoid a long, costly and protracted legal case.’
But Jim Boyce, who stepped down as Britain’s FIFA vice-president last week, said there should be a full investigation.
Boyce, from Northern Ireland, said: ‘I have never heard anything as ridiculous in my life. If a payment of $5m has been paid because of a handball and threatened legal action then I hope a full investigation will be carried out into this and any other such arbitrary payments.’
Meanwhile, Jack Warner, one of Blatter’s closest aides for over 20 years, pledged to release an ‘avalanche’ of evidence relating to FIFA’s financial transactions — including the president’s dealings.
Warner, who is on bail in Trinidad facing US Department of Justice corruption charges, said: ‘I fear for my life. At the age of 73 I have no intention of allowing them to deprive me of my freedom. I will no longer keep secrets.
‘I have compiled a comprehensive series of documents, including cheques and corroborated statements and I have placed them in respected hands. These documents also deal with my knowledge of certain transactions at FIFA including but not limited to its president Sepp Blatter.
‘There can be no turning back. I have suffered derision, indignity and ridicule and have kept my mouth shut. I will do so no more. Not even death will stop the avalanche that is coming.
‘Half the things you hear (about me) are not true. South Africa didn’t give me any $10m bribe. They didn’t give me any bribe. Blatter didn’t give me any bribe.’
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