Ireland may have missed out on the 2010 World Cup due to a bad call, but the Football Assn. of Ireland got something else from FIFA -- millions of dollars.
The embattled world governing body of soccer admitted Thursday to giving the money to FAI -- initially calling it a loan but eventually writing it off -- in the aftermath of a controversial non-call in 2009 by the referees on an obvious handball by France's Thierry Henry, whose team was playing Ireland for a spot in the following year's World Cup in South Africa.
FAI CEO John Delaney earlier had mentioned such a financial arrangement between the two organizations during an interview with RTE, Ireland's national public TV and radio broadcaster.
"We felt we had a legal case against FIFA because of how the World Cup hadn't worked out, of course the Henry handball," Delaney said. "Also the way [Sepp] Blatter behaved, if you remember on stage, having a snigger and having a laugh at us. That day when I went in, and I told him how I felt about him, there were some expletives used. We came to an agreement.
"That was a Thursday and on Monday the agreement was all signed and all done. It’s a very good agreement for the FAI and a very legitimate agreement for the FAI."
Later in the interview, Delaney confirmed that it was "a payment to the association not to proceed with the legal case" and never referred to it as a loan.
FIFA released its version of the transaction Thursday in a statement:
“On 18 November 2009, there was playoff match between France and the Republic of Ireland for a place in the 2010 World Cup finals. During the match, a handball by France’s Thierry Henry led indirectly to a goal against the Irish team. Ireland did not qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals," said a FIFA statement.
“While the referee’s decision is final, and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) ultimately accepted it as such, in January 2010 FIFA entered into an agreement with FAI in order to put an end to any claims against FIFA. FIFA granted FAI a loan of $5 million for the construction of a stadium in Ireland. At the same time, UEFA also granted the FAI funds for the same stadium.
“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 as per 31 December 2014.”
Earlier on Thursday, FIFA said Blatter has started work on what the organization calls "meaningful reform of the administration and structure of FIFA."
Blatter announced Tuesday that he would step down amid a widening criminal investigation involving corruption within FIFA. The U.S. Department of Justice has charged 14 people, including nine current or past high-ranking members of FIFA, in the case. Seven of those charged are awaiting extradition after being arrested in Zurich, Switzerland, prior to the FIFA Congress on Friday.