‘Fifa paid Irish to stay quiet over Thierry Henry handball’

Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter
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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.

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 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 said: “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 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: “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.