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Irish Soccer Details $7 Million FIFA Payment Over Handball

Robbie Keane scored in Ireland's controversial World Cup qualifying match with France on Nov. 18, 2009 — but the country was eliminated by the aggregate score of 2-1. Ireland's soccer association says FIFA paid 5 million euros — $7 million at 2010 exchange rates — over a blatant breaking of the rules by France.

A day after news emerged that soccer's world body paid Ireland not to protest a blatant handball by France's Thierry Henry in 2009, the Football Association of Ireland is releasing more details about the arrangement — including a copy of a signed deal.

FIFA paid the FAI more than 5 million euros — equal to around $7 million at the time of the transaction in January 2010 — so that the Irish would quit their plans for a legal appeal.

"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," FAI CEO John Delaney tells Irish broadcaster RTE.

It's the latest report of millions of dollars changing hands over FIFA and the World Cup. While earlier news has alleged hefty bribes over the awarding of the tournament, this case centers on a pivotal play in a World Cup playoff game that played in a key role in Ireland staying home for the 2010 Cup.

The play in November of 2009 was immediately controversial — particularly after Henry admitted that he used his hand to guide the ball shortly before a crucial goal. Ireland was eliminated on aggregate goals, 2-1.

Ireland loudly protested and demanded to play France again. But FIFA offered a different accommodation: a confidential payment to the country's soccer association that was initially called an interest-free loan. Last summer, the loan was forgiven, in a note that cited Ireland's failure to qualify for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

FIFA acknowledged the arrangement Thursday. And today, saying that the rules of confidentiality no longer were in play, the FAI published an agreement signed by FIFA Secretary General Jerome Volcke, his deputy Markus Kattner, and FAI's CEO, John Delaney.

The first page provides some details:

The FAI says it used the FIFA payment for a new stadium, and that its leaders kept the organizations board informed about the FIFA money, which was kept in its central account.

The Irish group also released several bank records, including one showing a transfer of 5 million euros from FIFA. The group included a letter from Kattner to Delaney written in 2014 which concludes, "the credit position vis a vis the FAI stands at nil."

"All of the information above is contained in our audited accounts," the FAI says.

The organization says its board "acted at all times in the best interests of Irish football, and in full compliance with Irish company law."

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