FIFA paid Ireland €5 million to settle Thierry Henry's handball out of court

FIFA paid Ireland €5 million to settle Thierry Henry's handball out of court
4 June 2015

FIFA paid the Football Association of Ireland €5 million to not contest in court Thierry Henry's infamous handball in a World Cup qualifier, it was revealed on Thursday.

Henry handled the ball in setting up William Gallas' extra-time goal which ultimately sent France through to the 2010 finals in South Africa ahead of Republic of Ireland. The incident in the second leg of their playoff, which finished 1-1 to give France a 2-1 aggregate win, was not spotted by Swedish referee Martin Hansson and left the FAI fuming.

FAI chief executive John Delaney said he made his feelings known in a no-holds-barred exchange with FIFA president Sepp Blatter -- who announced this week he will step down -- and the outcome was a financial agreement between the two parties. Delaney told RTE Radio 1: "We felt we had a legal case against FIFA because of how the World Cup playoff hadn't worked out for us with the Henry handball. Also the way 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. I'm bound by confidentiality for naming the figure. You've put a figure out there and fair play to you. 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."

Later on Thursday, FIFA confirmed the amount and called the payment a "loan" that was intended to be repaid if Ireland qualified for the 2014 World Cup, which they did not.

"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," a FIFA statement said. "The terms agreed between FIFA and the FAI were that the loan would be reimbursed 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." FIFA later clarified that the payment was not US dollars but €5m ($7.1 million in January 2010).

In response to FIFA's statement, Ireland called the money a "legitimate payment that enabled our Association to put €5m into the Aviva stadium project. This is fully reflected in our financial statements which are audited independently. The Associated accepted FIFA's settlement offer to avoid a long, costly and protracted legal case." The 56,000 seat Aviva Stadium was built on the site of the Lansdowne Road national stadium and opened in 2010.

"FIFA's settlement with the Association has at no time influenced the FAI's criticism of FIFA as demonstrated by our consistent criticisms of Sepp Blatter," the Dublin-based governing body said. "Furthermore the settlement was made without any conditions other than confidentiality."

Jim Boyce, who stepped down as Britain's FIFA vice-president last week, labelled the payment "ridiculous" said there should be a full investigation into such "arbitrary" payments. Boyce, from Northern Ireland, told PA Sport: "I'm absolutely astounded -- I have never heard anything as ridiculous in my life. If a payment of €5m 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."

Ireland turned in arguably their best performance under former boss Giovanni Trapattoni at the Stade de France and were brimming with confidence when Robbie Keane's 33rd-minute strike cancelled out a first-leg deficit. However, Gallas' late equaliser broke Irish hearts with television replays clearly showing Henry's offence, for which he later apologised. France failed to make it out of their group in South Africa, taking just a point from their three first round games.

Source: PA via ESPN.