FIFA secretly gave FAI €5 million after publicly ruling out financial compensation

by Michael Nugent on June 5, 2015

France-v-IrelandIf the Football Association of Ireland publicly demands that FIFA be transparent, then the FAI must itself be transparent about the reported €5m that it secretly got from FIFA.

On 3 December 2009 Sepp Blatter publicly ruled out FIFA giving financial compensation to the FAI, after a handball-assisted goal had helped to stop Ireland from qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

Blatter explained that: “If you started to compensate teams that have not qualified, then you will have others coming to us.”

Blatter added that FIFA could consider giving the FAI some moral compensation, which he said could mean anything from a compliment to a special award or a prize.

It seems that FIFA then secretly agreed to give the FAI €5 million, apparently in the form of a loan that has since been written off, if the FAI dropped legal complaints about the handball decision.

But the basis of these legal complaints seems unclear. In football, the referee’s decision is final, and many significant games have been lost through controversial refereeing mistakes.

The €5 million that FIFA gave to the FAI represented most of the €6 million (also reported as $8 million) that the FAI would have got as its minimum prize money for qualifying for the 2010 tournament.

As part of the deal, the FAI agreed to a confidentiality clause that in effect kept the €5 million payment secret.

The FAI has insisted the €5 million payment “is fully reflected in our financial statements which are audited independently”.

But how could the FAI do that, if it was bound by a confidentiality clause? And given that explanation, how is it that nobody knew about it until this week? Surely somebody would have noticed an unexpected €5 million in the accounts?

Whatever happened, there should be an independent investigation into this significant confidential transaction that remains clouded in mystery.

Here is the Guardian’s report of Sepp Blatter’s position on 3 December 2009.

At the same meeting, the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, said that the Republic of Ireland could receive some sort of “moral compensation” following their controversial elimination from the World Cup. After the Football Association of Ireland yesterday formally withdrew its request to be made the 33rd team in tomorrow’s draw, he said Fifa would again meet the Irish next week in Zurich.

“When it comes to the Ireland match, where all the world has seen this obvious foul play, then we do consider moral compensation for the Football Association of Ireland,” he said. But Blatter said the compensation would not be financial: “Moral compensation can mean anything from a compliment to a special award or a prize. Financial compensation is not exactly what is perceived in such cases.”

Here is the Irish Times report of Sepp Blatter’s position on 4 December 2009:

The association has doubtless raised the possibility of some form of financial compensation being paid to it too at some stage over the last couple of weeks but Fifa president Sepp Blatter yesterday ruled the idea out, while suggesting a different type of gesture might be in the pipeline, something he referred to as “moral compensation”.

“If you started to compensate teams that have not qualified then you will have others coming to us,” said Blatter. “But when you see this kind of matter where the whole world has seen foul play, then maybe there could be some kind of compensation for Ireland. “We will look at that. Yesterday Ireland withdrew their demands and they asked to meet with us and we will do that next week.”

Here is how the FAI’s John Delaney described the payment earlier this week:

“You’ve put a figure out there [€5 million] and fair play to you. It was a payment to the association not to proceed with a legal case. And in there they signed a confidentiality agreement where I can’t talk about the amount involved… You used a figure there, well done to you, but it was a very good and legitimate deal for the FAI.”

Here is how the FAI’s John Delaney described the payment yesterday:

“I’ll tell you exactly what happened… We felt we had a legal case against Fifa because of how the World Cup hadn’t worked out for us because of the Henry handball. Also the way Blatter behaved if you remember on stage, having a snigger, having a laugh at us.

“So that day when I went in, I told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used. We came to an agreement. That was a Thursday and on the Monday, the agreement was all signed and all done. It was a good agreement for the FAI, a very legitimate agreement for the FAI.”

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nialler June 5, 2015 at 6:45 pm

I think that the basis of any legal case was the decision to use seedings before the playoffs – that was only decided shortly before the draw in order to avoid two large nations playing each other. There was definite potential for a case there; it was a huge change in the tournament conditions.

The handball? A match situation. Happens all the time. The ref couldn’t have seen it. Meh.

We’ve all played in matches won on a deceit. Every sport is the same. Every sportsman I know just moves on.

2 Michael Nugent June 6, 2015 at 1:16 am

Well, Nialler, that’s not what John Delaney originally said was the basis. He said:

“I’ll tell you exactly what happened… We felt we had a legal case against Fifa because of how the World Cup hadn’t worked out for us because of the Henry handball. Also the way Blatter behaved if you remember on stage, having a snigger, having a laugh at us.”

None of the documents that the FAI has released make any mention of the seedings issue.

Also, why would FIFA give the FAI, and only the FAI, money because of the seedings issue? There were three other play-offs in the UEFA groups that were subject to the same seedings.

In many ways, if it was about the seedings issue, the FAI would come out of it as an even less sporting organisation than if it was (as on the face of it, it seems to be) about the handball.

3 Michael Nugent June 6, 2015 at 1:35 am

The agreement between FIFA and the FAI is published here.

http://www.the42.ie/fai-statement-fifa-2146164-Jun2015/

It is explicitly about the handball.

4 Nialler June 6, 2015 at 8:21 am

Yet, they’re also claiming that it was about the seedings here:

http://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/john-delaney-claims-playoff-seeding-change-was-basis-of-legal-threat-to-fifa-31281886.html

The whole thing is ridiculous.

What’s worse for Delaney is the laddish way he spoke about it. It was boastful and of the “I out-kidded a kidder” stripe.

I love sport of itself, but at the international level it seems to be intrinsically corrupt. This applies to many sports: Soccer, Cricket, Athletics, Cycling. The list is long. The fact that it is endemic doesn’t excuse any single example of it.

By the way, the FA story was the first story on the news in France on Thursday. The top story.

And, FWIW, the day after the handball was strange in France. The public were pretty disgusted. One newspaper simply led with a photo of the team with the simple headline: “Tricheurs”. Cheats.

I was ambivalent. We’d have accepted such a goal ourselves.

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