FAI bribe raises questions over FIFA eligibility decision

One of the most important aspects of the 1998 Agreement was that it clarified absolutely that, despite British sovereignty, by virtue of being a citizen of Northern Ireland you can be Irish by nationality. This makes Northern Ireland distinct from England, Scotland and Wales – in any of the latter, the assumed nationality is British; but in Northern Ireland, it may be British or Irish.

This is a vital distinction – and it is equally important to note that it also works the other way around. If someone is Irish by nationality, as of the 1998 Agreement this no longer automatically means an association with sovereign territory of Ireland (described as ‘the Republic of Ireland’). It means an association with either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.

With regards to international football, this has connotations. If you are British by nationality, you cannot just choose any of the four British teams – you have to have a further association with the relevant jurisdiction (your own birth or that of any parent or grandparent). Likewise, it follows as of 1998 that if you are Irish by nationality, you cannot just choose either of the two Irish teams – again, logically, it would follow that you have to have a further association with the relevant jurisdiction.

To be clear, this does not deny a Nationalist (of Irish nationality) the “right” to play for the Republic of Ireland, any more than it denies a Unionist (of British nationality) the “right” to play for England or Scotland. It merely means that an affiliation with the relevant jurisdiction has to be demonstrated in the normal way.

Yet here is the thing – FIFA ruled otherwise. Contrary to the clearly established rule with regard to the British teams (and in fact 25 other cases of “shared nationality”), it clarified that that rule applied but then bizarrely added one paragraph that Irish nationality alone would suffice to play for either Irish team – an inexplicable addition meaning rendering the ruling devoid of any logic whatsoever, and one which was of course bound in practice to favour the FAI (the governing body in the Republic of Ireland).

And here is the other thing – it turns out that FIFA and the FAI, well, get on rather well…

There is much to this mess about which we need to know a lot more…

6 thoughts on “FAI bribe raises questions over FIFA eligibility decision

  1. other paul says:

    I can’t believe you actually think the FAI had much to do here. After the Neil Lennon debacle, I’m kinda surprised that there’s still any debate about this. The IFA have continued to speak out of both sides of their mouths on sectarianism. The four home nations arrangement is unique to the UK whilst the North/South ruling seems much more consistent with the rest of the world approach.
    Perhaps you need to realise that this problem wasn’t caused by FIFA/FAI corruption, it’s a problem of the IFA’s own making.

    • You’re completely wrong there, frankly.

      Firstly, there’s every reason to think the FAI had something to do with it, not least since FIFA had a subsidiary based in Ireland for tax purposes at the time.

      Secondly, there are *25* arrangements similar to that between the Home Nations, as I mentioned in the piece.

      Thirdly, this has nothing to do with the IFA’s tackling of sectarianism, which is incomplete but frankly well advanced compared to other comparable organisations.

      • Thought this bribe was about a handball and France. Since France were embarrassed in South Africa after qualifying by that handball and the Republic embarrassed in Poland (yes Ukraine were co-hosts but the Republic didn’t play there) .. FIFA pretty much wasted their money here to some extent.

        Yes it did pay for the Aviva which is hosting some games in the next Euro 2020, but UEFA made that decision.

      • Effectively the decision was between two below average footballing teams, a France team who justified their play-off berth and an Irish team which arguably justified not getting through.

  2. other paul says:

    Sorry, but I beg to differ.
    Firstly, I don’t understand how this is relevant. Can you elaborate any further, or is a smear adequate evidence?
    Secondly, for starters your numbers are wrong here, 25 similar arrangments or 25 member countries? Going to the FIFA rule book (below) in page 97 it states that there are 25 member nations of particular interest, but of these the only subset singled out for a special arrangement is the UK home nations on Page 98. So your position here is both wrong and disingenuous.
    Thirdly, this has everything to do with the IFA’s tackling of sectarianism. Why do you think these players don’t want to represent Northern Ireland? (where they would have a much better chance of getting on?) The most progressive thing that I’ve seen IFA doing in the last few years is playing on Sunday?! It’s a pretty low bar.


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