Fifa are the biggest losers - Delaney


SOCCER:ON THE day Fifa killed off any chance the rule changes the FAI has been calling for might be introduced in time for next summer’s World Cup, John Delaney described the game’s governing body as the “biggest losers” in the controversy that has followed the play-off game in Paris and Sepp Blatter (sort of) apologised for the “wrong interpretation” of his comments regarding the association’s request to be added to the line-up for the event.

Members of Fifa’s executive committee did not, in the end, get the opportunity to follow their president’s lead by laughing at the Irish association’s request after the FAI sent word they would prefer the matter was not considered. At least in this regard Blatter and co were able to accommodate their colleagues in Abbotstown.

The key elements of Delaney’s submission in Zurich; that video be used to assist referees, that extra match officials be used and that the rules of the game should be reviewed so as to allow for the retrospective punishment of players who commit game-changing offences, were effectively disregarded, however.

Thierry Henry’s handball offence in Paris is to become the subject of a disciplinary hearing but the organisation announced that the other issues shall be referred to a variety of committees who will examine the merits of introducing video evidence and additional match officials at some point after this World Cup.

Delaney, a man who has doubtless packed his fair share of other people’s proposals off to committees down the years, expressed the hope that the move is “not a fudge”.

The FAI’s chief executive said that football is being played according to century old rules; “and what we tried to impress on Fifa last Friday and in our written communication with them was that it was time that football moved at the pace at which the game had changed”.

He reacted angrily, meanwhile, both to Blatter’s decision to make public the association’s request to be handed a place at next summer’s finals and the Fifa president’s demeanour as he did it.

“Well, it (Blatter’s laughter) was inappropriate and it was disrespectful to our country,” he said. “It was a confidential meeting we had last Friday, everybody agreed that it would be a confidential meeting, so when you have that it means that everything is kept indoors.

“The suggestion about a 33rd team or an extra team playing at the World Cup was very much peripheral to the conversations that took place. There was an hour and a half of a meeting and I think that was discussed maybe for a minute or two within the hour and a half. And there were far more substantial issues discussed than that issue.

“What he chose to do was breach confidentiality in a way that suited him – in an a la carte fashion – and I was disappointed that a president of Fifa would behave in such a way.”

Blatter, meanwhile, provided a wonderfully qualified expression of regret for everybody else’s behaviour in relation to his handling of the matter. “I would like to express my regrets,” he said, “to a wrong interpretation of what I said and, to the FAI, I’m sorry about the headlines going around the world. I have nothing against the Irish, they were very sporting when they came to Fifa.”

That barely seemed adequate for Delaney who said that he had contacted his opposite number at Fifa, general secretary Jerome Valcke, to complain about Monday’s carry on in Cape Town.

“I gather that Blatter has apologised today. And he should do because he insulted us as a country. I tried to impress upon him last Friday the hurt that was in our country over how the whole Henry incident had affected our ability to qualify for the World Cup, and he clearly didn’t understand that given the way he acted subsequently.”

In relation to the proposal that additional referee’s assistants be deployed behind the goals during next summer’s tournament, meanwhile, Blatter said that there was not enough time to consider the matter properly prior to the event.

“We shall have a look at technology or additional persons and this shall be done by a committee but not the referees’ committee alone, it will be done by the football, technical and medical committees, too.

“The experiments with the Europa League shall go on into the knockout stages next year” he said, “but it has been decided, for the World Cup 2010, there is no change in the refereeing: one referee, two assistants and a fourth official.

“We do not ignore the experiments but they are being made in only one professional league in Europe. Most of those referees will not be selected for the World Cup.

“In the other countries the experiments have not been made so it’s the opinion, not only of the executive committee but other committees too, that an experiment must be carried out globally before you can put it into the World Cup.”