FIFA asks for scandal evidence

Updated: May 11, 2011, 1:22 PM ET
Associated Press

GENEVA -- Facing a deepening corruption scandal, FIFA demanded evidence Wednesday to back up English claims that six executive committee members were involved in bribery during bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, meanwhile, promised to resolve the crisis before he comes up for re-election June 1.

"We have to do it now immediately. We have exactly three weeks to do so," Blatter said in an interview with Qatar-based network Al-Jazeera.

Blatter is seeking a fourth and final four-year term against Qatari challenger Mohamed bin Hammam, who was a central figure in his country's victorious -- and controversial -- bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

Following Tuesday's allegations made during a British parliamentary inquiry, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke wrote to England's Football Association asking for a complete report plus "all documentary evidence" from David Triesman, the former leader of England's 2018 bid.

Triesman told British lawmakers that four long-standing FIFA officials -- Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Ricardo Teixeira and Worawi Makudi -- requested bribes in the 2018 bidding.

Lawmakers also were told in a submission from The Sunday Times that Qatar paid $1.5 million to two more FIFA officials, Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma, in the 2022 contest. Qatar won the vote, beating the United States in the final round.

FIFA said it has asked the newspaper for more evidence of information it received from a whistleblower within Qatar's bid.

Valcke requested detailed evidence in order to "examine the situation thoroughly and with clear-sightedness," FIFA said.

As FIFA's top administrator, responsibility falls on Valcke to ask FIFA's ethics court to open official investigations against any of the six under suspicion.

A previous FIFA ethics probe based on a Sunday Times investigation threw the 2018 and 2022 bid races into chaos during the final weeks of campaigning before the December vote.

Two members of FIFA's executive committee, Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii, were barred from voting for their part in the corruption allegations.

"It is not the first time and we know how to react now," Blatter said. "Once we have the evidence then we can decide where we go, if we go, in the investigation -- an administrative investigation or directly to the ethics committee."

FIFA said Valcke has asked English soccer officials to provide parliamentary records of Triesman's testimony.

It also questioned why the newspaper's latest allegations were not provided with other material submitted last October for the previous ethics probe.

"In particular, reference is made in the letter to the allegations regarding a 'whistleblower who had worked with the Qatar bid,' who allegedly made some declarations," FIFA said.

The Qatar football federation has denied paying Hayatou, from Cameroon, and Ivory Coast's Anouma, calling the allegations "wholly unreliable."

Hayatou, the president of the Confederation of African Football, "categorically denies" the claims, the African body said Wednesday. He threatened legal action to defend his name.

Bin Hammam played a key role in delivering the 2022 World Cup to his homeland.

"FIFA is not corrupted," the Asian Football Confederation president said. "We are victims of the popularity of the game."

The conduct of Warner, Leoz, Teixeira and Makudi in the 2018 contest won by Russia was described as "improper and unethical" by Triesman.

Warner, a FIFA vice president from Trinidad and Tobago, dismissed Triesman's allegations, saying he "laughed like hell" when he heard them on Tuesday.

"I never asked anybody for anything," Warner told Trinidad newspaper Newsday. "When these guys [England] came here, we promised to help. I showed them a place where they can put a playground. They promised to come back but they never did."

Valcke has questioned why the claims -- which included incidents said to have occurred in 2009 -- were not reported earlier.

"If it was known, why has it not come to our attention? We have called and asked people to let us know whatever you have in this process," Valcke said.

Asked if the World Cup votes should be reopened, Valcke said the process had been conducted cleanly and all known evidence was examined.

British sports minister Hugh Robertson said he had discussed the possibility of England breaking away from FIFA, along with other countries.

"I have taken the temperature from other football associations around the world, particularly we did that in the wake of the 2018 bid," Robertson told the BBC. "At the moment there is a desire to try to work to change FIFA from the inside. If FIFA is unable to do that then I would say all options are possible."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press