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'Fifa paid FAI over Henry handball'

Published 04/06/2015

Bribes were paid to senior officials to vote for the 2010 and 1998 World Cups, an ex-Fifa boss said
Bribes were paid to senior officials to vote for the 2010 and 1998 World Cups, an ex-Fifa boss said
Former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner is threatening to reveal "secrets" about the scandal-hit body led by Sepp Blatter.

Fifa paid Irish football's governing body not to contest the infamous Thierry Henry handball which potentially cost the Emerald Isle a World Cup place, it emerged tonight.

Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief executive John Delaney confirmed they were handed the seven-figure sum to avoid a legal wrangle through the courts, after former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Henry handled the ball in setting up William Gallas's extra-time goal which ultimately sent France through to the 2010 finals in South Africa ahead of the Republic of Ireland.

The incident in the second leg of their play-off, 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.

Mr Delaney's disclosure came on another damaging day for beleaguered Fifa, which has been forced to defend itself against accusations of corruption since senior officials were arrested in Switzerland last week.

Reports last year claimed the payment to the FAI was five million euros.

Mr Delaney told RTE Radio 1: "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.

"Also the way (then-Fifa president 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. 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."

Departing president Mr Blatter is continuing to press forward with his plans for reform within the damaged organisation despite calls for him to have no further involvement.

Just four days after being re-elected into his post he announced on Tuesday that he would be standing down in the wake of bribery and corruption charges which have brought the world governing body to its knees in the last few days.

However, in his announcement he pledged to stay on until a new successor was elected - not likely until December at the earliest - in order to drive ''far-reaching, fundamental reforms''.

Fifa vice-president Jack Warner, one of those indicted by the US Justice Department and who is now the subject of an Interpol international wanted person alert, had already labelled Mr Blatter a ''lame-duck president''.

He has pledged to release an ''avalanche'' of evidence relating to Fifa's financial transactions, including those of Mr Blatter, with him and the United National Congress, one of the parties in the current ruling coalition in Trinidad and Tobago.

Mr Warner suggested his life was in danger in a public message after paying for a political broadcast slot on TV in his native Trinidad, and said: "I will no longer keep secrets for them who actively seek to destroy the country."

He later told a rally of his Independent Liberal Party: "The die is cast. There can be no turning back. Let the chips fall where they fall. Blatter knows why he fell. And if anyone else knows, I do."

Meanwhile, Australian police said they are investigating corruption claims surrounding Mr Warner and Australia's failed bid for the 2022 World Cup.

The news came after Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy defended his group's payment of 500,000 Australian dollars to the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf), the regional football federation in North America.

Mr Lowy claims the money was "misappropriated" by Mr Warner, the then president of Concacaf.

Australia spent millions of pounds trying to clinch hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup, but received just one vote when Qatar secured the rights in December 2010.

The revelations come little more than 24 hours after Mr Blatter finally announced that he would be standing down as Fifa president.

Chuck Blazer, former Concacaf general secretary and Fifa executive committee member, said in his testimony published last night: "I and others on the Fifa executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup."

He was said to have travelled with Mr Warner to Morocco in 1992 where they agreed to take a bribe to vote for the country for the 1998 World Cup, a tournament which France went on to host.

Jim Boyce, who stepped down as Britain's Fifa vice-president last week, branded the 5 million euro compensation payment from Fifa to the FAI - initially a loan - "ridiculous" and said there should be a full investigation into such "arbitrary" payments.

Mr Boyce, from Northern Ireland, told Press Association Sport: "I'm absolutely astounded - I have never heard anything as ridiculous in my life.

"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."

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