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Delaney spared Dil grilling over 5 million Fifa pay-off

IFA chief exectuive John Delaney

TDS have decided not to grill the Republic of Ireland’s football chief about the €5 million pay-off from Fifa for a Thierry Henry handball which cost the Republic a World Cup place.

John Delaney, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief executive, last week revealed the money was arranged by Sepp Blatter after the team controversially lost a play-off against France in 2009.

It was classed as a loan and used to pay of debts for the redevelopment of the old Lansdowne Road into the Aviva stadium.

Mr Delaney was facing the prospect of a potentially tricky Q&A in front of an Oireachtas committee over his handling of the secret deal, even though the FAI is not regulated by the Irish government.

But following a private meeting in Leinster House yesterday morning a spokeswoman confirmed: “The committee have opted not to ask the FAI to appear.”

While the FAI is not governed by the Dáil, the organisation receives millions in grants for the development of the game.

Part of that is more than €2m administered through Sports Council grants for the grass-roots game as well as hundreds of thousands in grants paid directly to clubs and not handled by the FAI.

Mr Delaney has not answered any questions publicly since the revelation but the FAI issued a lengthy statement outlining the chronology of the Fifa pay-off and where it was recorded in its accounts.

He disclosed last week that the €5m was secured from Fifa after a heated exchange with Mr Blatter in his office and the Fifa boss joking that the Republic sought to be team 33 at the World Cup in South Africa.

Mr Delaney claimed the money was paid to stave off a threatened lawsuit against Fifa after officials missed the double handball by Henry to set up a goal for William Gallas.

Such a courtroom claim would have been unprecedented in soccer history.

The terms were originally confidential, the FAI has said, but the money was also due to repaid if the Republic qualified for the subsequent 2014 World Cup.

Mr Delaney went on the offensive ahead of being called to the committee by contacting members to state that he had nothing to add to the detailed FAI statement on accounts from 2010.

He also reportedly told some politicians that calling him before a committee would do more harm than good to the team’s prospects of Euro 2016 qualification with the Republic playing Scotland on Saturday afternoon in Dublin in the latest round.

John O’Mahony, chair of the committee which discussed bringing Mr Delaney in, said he had spoken to the FAI chief by telephone in advance but that he had not been lobbied to drop an inquiry.

He criticised other contacts between Mr Delaney and other members of the committee over his threatened attendance.

“It’s something that I feel should not happen,” he told RTÉ.

“This was not going to be a witch-hunt of John Delaney or the FAI or a protection.”

Mr O’Mahony said officials in the Dáil who advise on the work of committees had said any inquiry into money paid by Fifa to the FAI could be construed as outside its remit.

He said the decision not to bring Mr Delaney in was a majority view of the politicians on the committee which he directed instead of asking for a vote.

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