CRISIS-HIT world governing body Fifa were last night at the centre of a fresh cash row over payments made to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to drop a legal case over striker Thierry Henry’s infamous World Cup handball.
Former Arsenal forward Henry handled the ball in the build-up to a William Gallas strike in extra-time of Ireland’s World Cup play-off defeat to France in 2009, which saw Les Bleus qualify for the tournament proper in South Africa a year later.
FAI chief executive John Delaney felt his organisation had a compelling legal case but revealed yesterday that they were paid €5m (£3.6m) by Fifa to end all thoughts of contesting the matter in court.
“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,” said Delaney.
“It was a very good agreement for the FAI and a very legitimate agreement for the FAI. It was a payment to the association not to proceed with a legal case. It was a very good and legitimate deal for the FAI.”
Fifa last night moved to diffuse the latest allegation surrounding the besieged governing body, insisting the payment was a loan to be refunded should Ireland qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
“In January 2010, Fifa entered into an agreement with FAI in order to put an end to any claims against Fifa,” read a statement. “Fifa granted the FAI a loan of $5m for the construction of a stadium in Ireland. The terms agreed between Fifa and the FAI were that the loan would be imbursed if Ireland qualified for the 2014 Fifa World Cup.
“Ireland did not so qualify. Because of this, and in view of the FAI’s financial situation, Fifa decided to write off the loan.”
Bribery and corruption charges have this week encircled Fifa, while on Tuesday Blatter announced his resignation from the embattled world governing body.