Hands up all of you who think FIFA is corrupt and the World Cup bid voting should be postponed: No, not you FIFA President Sepp Blatter (AGP file photos).
With FIFA’s Thursday decision on the host nations for the World Cup tournaments in 2018 and 2022 looming, reporters around the world are performing the journalistic equivalent of reading tea leaves as they try to figure out which nation has a supposed leg up on its rivals. Or perhaps trying to guess who has paid off who is more appropriate given the revelations surrounding those that cast ballots, which kept on coming Monday.
Here’s an update on how things stand (or are perceived ahead of the crucial vote) and check out the links after the story for more stories that make you say “hmmm”:
ZURICH (AP) — Three days before the vote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts, FIFA was hit by further corruption allegations Monday when three senior officials were accused by European media of having received secret payments.
Executive committee members Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil, Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay and Issa Hayatou of Cameroon were named as having allegedly received payoffs from world soccer’s former marketing agency.
The three long-standing members of FIFA’s ruling panel received kickbacks from marketing agency ISL from 1989-99, the BBC and Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger and Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported.
The three media outlets said they obtained a secret ISL document listing the names and
ISL and parent company ISMM went bust in May 2001, leaving debts estimated at $300 million and plunging FIFA into a financial crisis. The collapse triggered one of Switzerland’s biggest criminal fraud cases.
The BBC, which was airing the allegations on its flagship documentary program “Panorama” on Monday night, said the three men did not respond to requests for comment about the allegations.
FIFA told The Associated Press it had no immediate comment on the reports.
The reports said Teixeira, who heads the Brazilian committee organizing the 2014 World Cup, received $9.5 million dollars.
Leoz, the South American soccer confederation president, reportedly got $600,000. The
82-year-old lawyer had previously been identified as receiving two kickbacks worth a total of $130,000 when six former ISL executives went on trial and were cleared of fraud charges in 2008.
African soccer leader Hayatou, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee, allegedly received about $20,000 in 1995.
The BBC also made fresh allegations of wrongdoing against FIFA vice president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago involving the sale of World Cup tickets. He was previously criticized by FIFA’s ethics committee over his involvement in ticket-selling deals related to the 2006 tournament.
The BBC alleged that Warner tried to procure tickets for the 2010 World Cup in a scalping scam. It said the deal fell through when scalpers would not pay Warner’s asking price.
The BBC pressed ahead with the investigation despite fears at home it would damage England’s 2018 bid by alienating FIFA voters. Warner heads the CONCACAF regional body whose three votes are deemed to be crucial to England’s campaign.
Teixeira, Hayatou, Leoz and Warner are scheduled to take part in FIFA’s 22-man vote Thursday to select the two World Cup hosts. The 2018 contest involves England, Russia and joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium. The 2022 candidates are the United States, Qatar, South Korea, Japan and Australia.
The lights are on, but is anybody home at the FIFA HQ in Switzerland – or are they all out taking bribes? Judging by recent events, it may well be a legitimate question.
The latest allegations came two weeks after two FIFA executive committee members were banned from the World Cup voting for ethics violations.
FIFA’s ethics panel suspended Amos Adamu of Nigeria for three years after he was linked to bribe-taking in a British newspaper’s undercover sting.
Oceania soccer chief Reynald Temarii was cleared of corruption, but received a one-year ban for breaching FIFA confidentiality rules.
FIFA’s ethics committee also investigated alleged vote-trading, but did not find enough
evidence to prove allegations that Spain-Portugal and Qatar had colluded.
In their 2008 trial, ISL executives said secret payments to officials, channeled through
accounts in Liechtenstein, were essential to secure sports rights and marketing contracts. Such payments were then not illegal under Swiss law and the executives were acquitted of most charges.
After the verdicts in July 2008, prosecutors in the Swiss canton of Zug said a second trial was possible to examine whether any FIFA officials received illegal payments from
Prosecutors finally closed the file in June after the defendants repaid $5.5 million in
“It is important to stress that no FIFA officials were accused of any criminal offense in
these proceedings,” Blatter was quoted by BBC as saying.
Meanwhile, demands on the suspended Reynald Temarii to give up his legal rights amount to blackmail, his lawyer said Monday.
Temarii has not waived his right to appeal a one-year ban for ethics violations less than
three days before the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes.
FIFA has told the Oceania Football Confederation president he must stand aside before a replacement — Temarii’s deputy David Chung — can vote on Thursday.
Lawyer Geraldine Lesieur told The Associated Press that Temarii feels he’s being asked to be a sacrificial hero.
“He gives up his rights and sacrifices himself — or he sticks by his guns and that will be
held against him, that the OFC did not vote,” Lesieur said.
“If he is obliged to (waive his appeal), then it will be true blackmail … it is because of
Pressure also has been exerted by Temarii’s colleagues at Oceania, who asked FIFA to accept Papua New Guinean official Chung as the 23rd executive committee member. Oceania has sought to appease Temarii by delaying its 2011 Congress until December, technically allowing him to stand for re-election after the ban expires.
Australia’s bid team is anxious for the legal impasse to end because Oceania has promised to support its neighbor in the 2022 contest.
However, Temarii wants one demand met by FIFA before he considers forfeiting his right to clear his name.
He wants FIFA’s ethics committee to provide detailed reasons why it banned him from all soccer duty for breaking confidentiality rules when he spoke with undercover reporters who tried to link him with bribe-taking.
Lesieur said she believes Temarii could win an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport — thus raising the possibility the World Cup vote could one day be declared invalid.
“It’s a risk,” the Paris-based lawyer said. “(FIFA) are capable of asking an individual to
give up all their rights because if they go through with their appeals, the vote of Dec. 2 is void. That is the only thing that can explain this pressure.”
The Oceania issue simmered in the background at FIFA headquarters on Monday as voters and bidders continued arriving for the final stretch of lobbying. The chief executive of England’s 2018 bid, Andy Anson, said he expected Oceania’s vote would be in play.
“We are anticipating it will be 23 voters,” Anson said. “It means you’ve got to get 12 votes to get over the line. We know which 12 votes we are targeting.”
With Oceania’s possible intentions for 2018 unclear, England and its rivals Russia,
Belgium-Netherlands and Spain-Portugal all will seek its support. Australia wants Oceania’s guaranteed vote because the other 2022 candidates — the United States, Japan, South Korea and Qatar — all are directly represented on the FIFA executive committee.
And if you followed all those dizzying permutations, then you might be interested to know:
*The U.S. is apparently not immune to all this politicking judging by this blog post written by CONCACAF General Secretary Chuck Blazer.
*Soccer America has yet more on the who will support who game, as well as the mechanics of the voting process.