FIFA IN CRISIS: Jim Boyce ‘astounded’ by handball pay-out admission

FLASHBACK:  France''s Thierry Henry (left) after scoring his side's second goal of the game during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Play Off
FLASHBACK: France''s Thierry Henry (left) after scoring his side's second goal of the game during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Play Off

Calls have been made for an investigation into “arbitrary” FIFA payments after the world governing body admitted paying the Football Association of Ireland 5million US dollars as compensation for the infamous Thierry Henry handball in a World Cup play-off.

France beat Ireland in the 2009 play-off 2-1 on aggregate - with France’s extra-time decider in the second leg owing much to an Henry handball in the build-up - which led to the FAI threatening legal action after missing out on the 2010 World Cup.

The payment, initially a loan, was agreed in return for the FAI not taking the case to court. Had Ireland qualified for the 2014 finals they would have had to pay the money back.

However, the two organisations differ with the figure. The FAI released a statement on Thursday night claiming the figure was 5million euros (£3.65 million at current exchange rates), while FIFA’s claim of 5million US dollars equates to £3.25million now.

It adds more fuel to the fire amid the FIFA corruption crisis.

Jim Boyce, who stepped down as Britain’s FIFA vice-president last week, labelled the payment “ridiculous” and said there should be a full investigation into such “arbitrary” payments.

Boyce, from Northern Ireland, said: “I’m absolutely astounded - I have never heard anything as ridiculous in my life.”

“If a payment of 5million [dollars] 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.”

FAI chief executive John 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 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.”

FIFA said in a statement: “While the referee’s decision is final, and the FAI ultimately accepted it as such, in January 2010 FIFA entered into an agreement with FAI in order to put an end to any claims against FIFA.”

The development focuses further attention on FIFA’s unorthodox business practices after the disclosure this week it paid disgraced FIFA vice-president Jack Warner on behalf of South Africa ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

A leaked letter from the South African Football Association (SAFA) - obtained by Press Association Sport - showed they instructed FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke to pay 10million US dollars to Warner in 2008.

Within hours of the letter being made public, Sepp Blatter had announced he will stand down as FIFA president as soon as a new election takes place next year.

However, there have been calls for Blatter to leave immediately - with Warner describing him as a ‘’lame duck president’’, and promising an “avalanche” of information to bury the man he helped get to power.

“You can’t say you’re stepping down and then stay for several more months,’’ Warner said. ‘’You can’t do that. You will be a lame duck president.’’

Protesting his own innocence, Warner added: ‘’Half the things you hear (about me) are not true. You all rush to write, it’s not true. South Africa didn’t give me any 10million dollars bribe, they didn’t give me any bribe, Blatter didn’t give me any bribe.

“Blatter knows why he fell, and if there’s one other person who knows, I do.’’

In his FBI plea bargain, FIFA whistleblower Chuck Blazer confessed that he ‘’and others on the FIFA executive committee’’ had agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as host of the 2010 World Cup. He also confessed he and Warner travelled to Morocco in 1992, where they agreed to take a bribe to vote for that country to host the 1998 World Cup, which was instead hosted by France.

The FBI is also reportedly investigating the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to be held in Russia and Qatar respectively. Those bidding processes are already the subject of the Swiss authorities’ investigation.

Reports in Brazil said the FBI is also looking into links between Valcke and Brazil’s 2014 World Cup organisers. Valcke spent several months working for Brazil’s World Cup bid between different jobs at FIFA - in the end Brazil was the only country to bid for 2014.