Group questions FIFA's integrity
GENEVA -- FIFA failed to send a clear message that it will fight corruption in World Cup bids, according to a global corruption watchdog.
As the soccer world governing body prepares to investigate World Cup vote-trading allegations on Wednesday, Transparency International lawyer Sylvia Schenk told The Associated Press that scandals surrounding how FIFA chooses the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts have created "a lot of doubt" about its integrity.
"Nobody has the impression that something like a zero tolerance approach [exists] in FIFA," Schenk said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. "You have a culture of giving presents and gifts to everybody, all the time, at any occasion."
FIFA executive committee members Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii will appear before the governing body's ethics panel which is investigating the British Sunday Times' claims they offered to sell their votes in the secret ballot scheduled Dec. 2. Both face suspension from duty after being filmed by undercover reporters who posed as lobbyists.
The panel has asked for the newspaper's evidence and will study allegations that at least two unnamed bidding countries have colluded on trading votes, in breach of FIFA rules designed for the bidding to host the world's most-watched event.
Officials from bidding nations Russia, the Netherlands -- which wants to co-host with Belgium -- and South Korea told the AP on Tuesday they are not involved in the ethics inquiry.
Europe will stage the 2018 World Cup, with England and Spain-Portugal completing the four-bid field. The 2022 hosting race has the United States, Australia, Japan and Qatar joining the Koreans.
A damning verdict by the independent ethics panel -- which could deliver provisional sanctions Wednesday and complete a fuller probe -- would likely end a campaign close to polling day.
Schenk is a former Olympic runner and one-time president of Germany's cycling federation who helps advise governments and businesses on working more openly. She believes FIFA created a problem by failing to explain exactly how a World Cup bid could show it was best.
"You need very clear criteria why the event will be awarded and to whom," she said, echoing recent criticism by one FIFA executive, Asian confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar, that marketing style seemed more important than a bid's substance.
Schenk's reputation has earned an invitation to speak at a FIFA-backed conference in Zurich in March on how to prevent matchfixing.
She believes the ruling culture at FIFA -- "talking to politicians, being important, getting presents" -- can only change with a directive from the top that corruption will be punished.
"Then people from the outside will know, 'Whatever I observe, I can report because FIFA really wants to know, FIFA really cares and will investigate every case brought to its attention, and would sanction every case which is proved.'
"At the moment you don't have it," Schenk said.
However, Schenk believes FIFA can still salvage credibility for the World Cup vote.
"If they work very hard on it, there can be time. It depends how long it will take to make a very clear, very intense investigation."