World Cup finalists guaranteed at least €6m


THE FAI got a painful reminder yesterday of what it is losing out on in financial terms by not being at next summer’s World Cup finals when Fifs announced the prize money that will be on offer to the 32 participants.

Every association whose name goes into the hat for this afternoon’s draw in Cape Town (5.15pm, BBC 2) will be guaranteed at least €6 million from the coffers of the game’s governing body with €650,000 paid up front to assist with preparation costs and the balance coming in the form of a consolation prize for group stage elimination.

Those who progress one round but are one of the eight countries to be eliminated in the first of the knockout rounds get an additional €600,000 but the figures for those who survive a little longer then soar. A repeat of Ireland’s performance at Italia ’90 where Jack Charlton’s side were beaten by the hosts in the quarter-finals would have resulted in the financially strapped association carrying away a cheque for some €12 million while the winners, runners-up and losing semi-finalists will receive €20 million, €16 million and €13.25 million respectively.

The figures, which were finalised yesterday at a meeting of the Fifa executive committee on Robben Island, represent a 61 per cent rise on the corresponding ones for the tournament in Germany three an a half years ago.

As part of a deal struck with representatives of the game’s most powerful clubs, Fifa will also carve up a portion of the tournament’s revenues with the players’ employers for the first time. Around €26 million will be divided up between clubs whose players are representing their countries at the event.

The sum works out at just over €1,000 per player per day and while the money will not be terribly significant to the biggest European sides – Chelsea, for instance, pay their captain, John Terry, around €25,000 per day – it has been seen as an important breakthrough that Fifa has conceded the principle.

The scale of the payments tend to explain why the FAI seemed determined to pursue the matter of its misfortune in Paris long after it had become apparent that nothing was going to come of its calls for “fair play”.

The association has doubtless raised the possibility of some form of financial compensation being paid to it too at some stage over the last couple of weeks but Fifa president Sepp Blatter yesterday ruled the idea out, while suggesting a different type of gesture might be in the pipeline, something he referred to as “moral compensation”.

“If you started to compensate teams that have not qualified then you will have others coming to us,” said Blatter. “But when you see this kind of matter where the whole world has seen foul play, then maybe there could be some kind of compensation for Ireland.

“We will look at that. Yesterday Ireland withdrew their demands and they asked to meet with us and we will do that next week.”

The FAI greeted Blatter’s comments somewhat coolly yesterday with a spokesman suggesting that it would wait for clarification as to what exactly is being proposed before taking a view on the matter.

Given the criticism he has been subjected to by the FAI over the course of a week Blatter would probably have preferred to have been free of controversy, it is a little hard to believe that the international organisation’s president will be feeling especially charitable towards John Delaney when they hook up again and one suspects he is playing games at this stage.

In any case, Blatter’s attention should be diverted from the Irish question from 5pm today when the draw for next summer’s finals finally gets under way at the Cape Town Convention Centre.

It will be the usual “star-studded” affair with sportspeople, film and pop stars and the odd Nobel peace prize winner helping to turn a five-minute process into a 90 minute “extravaganza”.

Much of the sporting interest, and not just in Ireland, will centre upon which group the French end up in for, having failed to secure a seeding, they are now seen as one of the short straws to be drawn from the pot containing the “lesser” European teams.

The mechanics of the process mean the French can be paired with any of the top seeds and Irish officials will probably feel even more aggrieved if Raymond Domenech’s luck extends to his side being handed a group stage clash with South Africa who, as hosts, are amongst the top seeds despite being, at 86, the lowest- ranked side in the competition.

The hosts cannot be paired with any of the other five African sides while Brazil and Argentina will not meet any other South American team before the knockout stages.

In addition to the French, most of the top seeds are likely to want to avoid the Portuguese as well as Ivory Coast and Cameroon from Africa and, most likely, the United States and Mexico from Pot Two.

North Korea, Honduras, Uruguay and, perhaps, Switzerland, look to be amongst the most attractive first-round picks for those countries with hopes of going all the way.


THE FAI has described as “premature” reports that Brazil are to visit Croke Park for a friendly international match on March 3rd. It had been widely reported yesterday that the five-times World champions would be returning to Dublin after the team’s manager, former midfielder and captain, Dunga said he was looking forward to seeing his side warm-up for next summer’s World Cup finals against the Irish, writes Emmet Malone

A spokesman for the FAI, however, said that talks about such a game were at a “very preliminary” stage and that the Brazilian’s comments had come as a “considerable surprise”.

The association, he said, has been weighing up a number of options and the idea of playing away hadn’t been discounted.

John Delaney said recently that no decision would be taken this week as he expects to receive approaches from countries who are drawn to play England at the World Cup and he suggested that the association might delay finalising opponents for the March date until after the draw for the European Championship qualifying stages in case Ireland and the other team were to find themselves in a group together.

Brazil, though, would avoid any need to delay on that front and, while they would not seem quite the catch they were when they played at Lansdowne Road in 2004 as World champions, they would doubtless deliver another substantial crowd at Croke Park.