Thursday 27 October 2016

FAI opens up on €5m pay-off and reveals extra $400k sum


John Delaney and Enda Kenny
John Delaney and Enda Kenny

THE FAI got $400,000 on top of its €5m pay-off from Fifa it was revealed last night, when Irish football chiefs dramatically threw open the books on the deal made in the aftermath of the infamous Thierry Henry handball.

FAI boss John Delaney had come under mounting pressure to show how his organisation had accounted for the bizarre payment in its financial reports.

Last night the FAI released details of the pay-off agreement with Fifa with Mr Delaney, insisting it was a "good deal".

The disclosure included how:

◊ A €5m "loan agreement" was made with Fifa on the condition the FAI waive "any and all claims" over the Henry incident.

◊ An additional sum of $400,000 was granted to the FAI under Fifa's "Goal Project" scheme as part of the deal.

◊ It was the joke by Fifa President Sepp Blatter sparked the pay-off.

"I've heard a lot of talk in the last few days about selling the Irish fans down," Mr Delaney said last night.

"I'm an Irish fan and I love my country," he said. He added that in the aftermath of the Henry incident - which saw Ireland crash out of the running for the 2010 World Cup - he and the FAI tried to get a "sporting solution" to the matter.

Once the draw for the World Cup Groups was made "we looked for a financial solution based on a legal case," he said.

The disclosures about the deal were made after a growing number of voices - including Taoiseach Enda Kenny and ex-FAI chiefs Fran Rooney and Bernard O'Byrne - called for transparency over the massive payment.

Mr Kenny described Mr Delaney's position as "tenable" adding: "I'm sure he will be able to answer any questions about this matter".


Both Fifa and the FAI finally confirmed the €5m deal on Thursday.

In a statement the FAI last night said it was releasing the details of the deal because "Fifa has confirmed the transaction" and the board decided that it was "no longer obliged to abide by the confidentiality agreement with Fifa".

The FAI "acted at all times in the best interests of Irish football, and in full compliance with Irish company law," the statement added.

The FAI outlined how it wrote to Fifa on November 19, 2009, requesting that the match be replayed and how that was refused the same day. The FAI told Fifa it was considering referring the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Irish football officials, including Mr Delaney, met Mr Blatter and other Fifa bosses on November 27 and "left the issue of legal action on the table".

"It was agreed by both parties that the meeting would remain confidential," the FAI said.

However on November 30 Mr Batter publicly mocked the FAI's suggestion that Ireland be added as a 33rd team for the World Cup.

The FAI claimed that this breached confidentiality "and subsequently brought reputational damage to the FAI".

Mr Delaney made a reference to this on RTE last night. "He (Blatter) made a skit that was a reputational damage from the president of FIFA," he said.

"That was the catalyst," Mr Delaney said.

There was a second meeting between Mr Delaney, Mr Blatter and other senior officials on January 12, 2010. Mr Blatter "personally apologised" for his remarks according to the FAI.

"Fifa offered the FAI a €5m interest free loan... as well as a $400,000 Goal Project grant that was used for FAI Regional Football Centres," the FAI said. The agreement was drawn up and executed on January 15.

The FAI said that its board was kept informed of the negotiations.

The €5m was lodged in its bank account five days later and was accounted for in the 2010 financial statements, under Bank and other Loans, the FAI said.

It said the funding was used to make payments to New Stadium Ltd - the trading name for Aviva Stadium management company - totalling €6,772,711.25. "The FAI sought a €5m write-down from Fifa on numerous occasions," the FAI said.

It said that the loan was reduced to €4m in 2011 and that was reflected in the FAI's turnover figure of €45m in that year's accounts.

In 2013, the remaining €4m was reduced to nil as a result of non-qualification to the 2014 World Cup, the statement said.

This was subsequently confirmed in writing by Fifa deputy secretary general Markus Kattner on June 13, 2014 and the transaction was accounted for in the FAI's 2013 audited accounts.

"This is a good deal for Irish football - my job is to do a good deal for Irish football," Mr Delaney insisted last night.

He said the deal wasn't previously revealed due to a confidentiality agreement. "There was a fine of $250,000 if we disclosed the fact that we got this money from Fifa," he said.

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