FIFA Under Fire
FIFA paid Ireland $5 million to not contest French handball
The widening corruption scandal at FIFA, soccer's world governing body, seems to mostly involve countries bribing FIFA officials to win bids to host the World Cup or smaller regional tournaments. But in at least one instance, FIFA was the one paying a national soccer association, Irish soccer officials said Thursday.
In a November 2009 qualifying match for the 2010 World Cup, French star Thierry Henry illegally blocked a ball with his hand in overtime, then passed it to William Gallas, who headed it into Ireland's net while Irish players were yelling at the Swedish referee who missed the handball. France won, 2-1, keeping Ireland from qualifying for the World Cup. Ireland threatened legal action, and FIFA cut a deal, according to Irish soccer association chief executive John Delaney.
After the lost match, Delaney told Ireland's RTE Radio 1, he went to complain to FIFA president Sepp Blatter "and I told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used. We came to an agreement." Delaney wouldn't say how much the agreement entailed, citing a confidentiality agreement, but essentially confirmed the $5 million number when Radio 1's Ray D'Arcy asked. "It’s a very good agreement for the FAI and a very legitimate agreement for the FAI," Delaney said, referring to Ireland's soccer association.
The money was given as a loan to help build a new stadium, FIFA said on Thursday, but FIFA wrote it off when Ireland failed to qualify for the 2014 cup. "I'm absolutely astounded — I have never heard anything as ridiculous in my life," said Jim Boyce, former vice-president of FIFA Britain, when told about the loan. "If a payment of $5 million 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." You can hear Delaney's comments, and learn about other FIFA scandals, in the Reuters video below. Peter Weber