Revealed: How FIFA'S '€5m' was put on FAI's books after Thierry Henry handball dumped Republic of Ireland out of World Cup playoffs
The '€5m' pay-off to Irish football could not be recorded in FAI accounts as coming from FIFA because of a confidentiality clause, according to sources.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who resigned this week, suggested the €5m figure to avert any potential legal action by the FAI against the game’s world governing body following the infamous Thierry Henry handball incident.
While the FAI has said the amount was “fully reflected in financial statements that are audited independently”, the Herald newsapaper said it has established that the pay-off was recorded in the accounts using more general and generic accounting terms.
An FAI source said they felt they had to do this because of a confidentiality agreement with FIFA over the money.
A week after FAI boss John Delaney called for greater transparency in the conduct of FIFA, the former chief executive of the FAI Fran Rooney said the deal puts the FAI in a “bad light” and called on them to publish the details of the settlement.
“Confidential payments of this nature are at odds with transparency. This confidential agreement should not have been confidential and should have been disclosed at the time,” he said.
“I would call now on the FAI to publish that legal agreement, that legal settlement, and let’s see what’s in it.”
Mr Rooney said he has an issue about how the €5m was disclosed in the FAI accounts and said it doesn’t seem to have been reflected on the face of the accounts for a number of years.
A source today revealed to the Herald how the money was dealt with in the FAI accounts.
“It’s reflected as a loan from FIFA initially in the accounts but when €1m of it was written off in 2011, and €4m was written off in 2013, it appears in the receipts as income,” they said.
“€1m appears as turnover for 2011 and €4m of appears as turnover for 2013. It’s recorded under receipts or turnover,” they said.
Asked if the money is listed as being from FIFA, the source said it wasn’t and the reason given for not recording it as being from FIFA was the confidentiality agreement insisted upon by the world body.
It is also believed that a fine may have been issued from FIFA if the pay-out figure was revealed by the FAI.
Mr Rooney said the money should have been disclosed by FIFA and the FAI.
“On the international arena this is seen as a very bad reflection on FIFA and the FAI. It leads to a lot of questions and it asks internationally for a probe into the whole arrangement,” he said.
The source who revealed how the €5m was accounted for also said it was Sepp Blatter who came up with the amount and that it doesn’t seem to have been contested or bargained with to see if any more money would have been forthcoming.
“The FAI had a case and FIFA wanted to settle,” they said,
“Blatter came up with the figure. FIFA offered it and the FAI thought it would be foolish to turn it down,” they explained.
Mr Delaney said last night the €5m payoff from the embattled world body represented “very good business”.
Mr Delaney defended the payment and said nothing would make up for not being at the 2010 World Cup – but the money actually “superseded” any commercial revenues the association would have made at the South African tournament.
“This was in fact a very good deal for Irish football and for the FAI, albeit nothing ever makes up for not actually being at the World Cup,” he said.
FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce has called for an investigation, saying: “How anyone can authorise a payment of €5m to stop legal proceedings is totally and utterly beyond me.”
FIFA last night said that the payment to the FAI was a “loan”, to be paid back if Ireland qualified for the 2014 World Cup.
It said the sum was written off on December 31 last, after Ireland failed to qualify.
Henry’s blatant handball in Ireland’s crucial November 2009 qualifier – missed by the referee – led to a French goal and deprived Ireland of a World Cup spot.
At the time the FAI suggested that FIFA add Ireland to the World Cup as the 33rd team. Blatter famously publicly mocked the suggestion and the FAI later threatened legal action.
The €5m deal was struck less than two months after the game, in January 2010.
“It was a payment to the Association not to proceed with a legal case,” Mr Delaney said yesterday, though he did not reveal the figure, citing a confidentiality agreement.
FIFA released a statement after his remarks, saying that the payment was $5m, though the FAI said it was €5m.
It was described by FIFA as a “agreement with the FAI in order to put an end to any claims”.
Its statement said that it was granted for the construction of a stadium and added that UEFA granted the FAI funds for the same stadium.
Last night the FAI said that it had “until now, abided by the confidentiality agreement required by FIFA as part of the settlement”.
“The settlement was reached following strong legal advice given to the Association regarding the case against FIFA, and was a legitimate payment that enabled the Association to put €5m into the Aviva
Stadium project,” a spokesman said.
“This is fully reflected in our financial statements, which are audited independently.
“Furthermore the settlement was made without any conditions other than confidentiality.
“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 spokesman said.