John Delaney, the Football Association of Ireland chief executive, has confirmed that he accepted a payment from Fifa after Thierry Henry’s handball in the 2010 World Cup qualifying play-offs ended their hopes of qualifying for the tournament in South Africa, according to a Guardian report.
Delaney said the payment, reported to be €5m, was made so the FAI would not pursue legal action.
Speaking to RTE, Delaney claimed the payment was “a very good and legitimate deal” for the FAI but due to a confidentiality agreement would not confirm the amount received.
“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,” 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 and 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, but I’m bound by confidentiality for naming the figure.”
There was no indication given as to how the Fifa payment was distributed within the organisation.
The presenter, Ray D’Arcy, then asked Delaney to confirm whether the amount was €5m but the chief executive, who earns an annual salary of €360,000, refused to confirm nor deny.
“You’ve put a figure out there and fair play to you,” he added. “It was a payment to the association to not proceed with a legal case. 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.”
Henry handled the ball in the build-up to William Gallas’s extra-time equaliser for France in the play-off at the Stade de France, leading to the FAI requesting to be added to the World Cup as a 33rd team.
That was swiftly rebuffed by Blatter but the manner in which the outgoing Fifa president rejected the proposal irked Delaney. “They have asked, very humbly ‘Can’t we be team No33 at the World Cup?’ They have asked for that, really,” Blatter said at the time, sniggering.
“In 2009 I called him an embarrassment to Fifa and to himself,” Delaney added. “He called me over about that, across the table like I am talking to you, with one or two expletives. He said: ‘No-one speaks to me like that’, and I said, ‘well I do’ and that was it.”
Delaney then categorically denied he has ever accepted a bribe, adding while laughing: “Not on my salary.” The chief executive’s pay has long been questioned in Ireland, especially considering the domestic champions earn a mere €100,000. “Look, I am paid to do a job and I know I’m paid very well,” he added. “I’m very happy in the job, if anybody come up to me and offered me a bribe, I’d say, because you offered me a bribe, you’re not getting anything.”
Delaney also referred to a bizarre recent encounter between Blatter and his partner which ended with the FAI chief executive asking the Swiss to “move on” and stop staring. “He met Emma, my partner, in Vienna recently. He stared at her for seven or eight seconds and he said: ‘I approve of your new girlfriend’. I asked him to move on, move on please.
“It was an extraordinary moment. He stared at her and I said ‘move on’ and he did.”