SPECIAL REPORT: Blatter Refutes FIFA in ‘Crisis’ Amid Sponsors Concern

May 31, 2011

Undoubtedly the biggest public corruption scandal of its history hit world soccer’s governing body FIFA this weekend, which saw presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam and key executive committee member Jack Warner suspended as the roof was lifted on the much maligned body’s worst kept secret.

It was reported that Qatari Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohamed Bin Hammam had withdrawn his presidential candidacy after being investigated on charges of corruption following a report handed to FIFA’s ethics committee by American ExCo member Chuck Blazer. The report also claimed that Warner was highly involved in offering and accepting bribes as well as investigating current current incumbent Sepp Blatter’s role in the farce to a lesser degree.

The outcome saw the two former officials provisionally suspended despite both denying the allegations, with Bin Hammam having already appealed the suspension. It is now known that Blatter’s challenger did not officially withdraw his candidacy and holds extremely slim hopes of overturning the decision in order to stand against his Swiss counterpart, who is now the sole candidate in tomorrow’s election.

In an extraordinary weekend of breaking news FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke was forced to retract claims made in an email published by the shamed Warner, saying that Qatar had bought the 2022 World Cup. Valcke confirmed that the email was genuine but stated that the comments he made were taken out of context and lost in email translation in a desperate attempt to clear the bids name after the scandal of the ‘whistleblower’ reported by the Sunday Times.

In his explaination Valcke claimed that he was referring only to Qatar’s huge marketing budget, as opposed to unethical behaviour, adding: “What I wanted to say is that the winning bid used their financial strength to lobby for support. I have at no time made, or was intending to make, any reference to any purchase of votes or similar unethical behaviour.”

The retraction was enough for Blatter, and indeed FIFA, to declare that the Qatar bid team were innocent in their lobbying process after the body found ‘no evidence’ from the Sunday Times report to take the case to the ethics committee.

The allegations made by former FA Chairman Lord Triesman were also disregarded with the FAs report suggesting that four ExCo members, including Warner, sought bribes in return for their backing in the 2018 World Cup bidding process at the end of last year. After claiming that there was no case to answer with regards to the report, FIFA agreed to publish a summary of the findings from the FAs case against its members.

As all this occurred, Blatter, who now stands as the sole candidate for re-election into what would be his fourth term as president, was forced to confront the press yesterday, Monday 30, though many of his comments only managed to multiply the feeling among many that a complete overhaul is necessary.

When asked as to whether the latest findings and allegations of corruption within the body had left FIFA in a crisis, Blatter stated: “What is a crisis? Football is not in a crisis. When you see the final of the Champions League then you must applaud. So we are not in a crisis, we are only in some difficulties.”

In a key development, FIFA’s major sponsors Coca-Cola and Adidas have both gone on record confirming their concern following the allegations of corruption that have engulfed the body.

Following the weekend’s extraordinary developments, a Coca-Cola spokesperson told the Press Association: “The current allegations being raised are distressing and bad for the sport. We have every expectation that FIFA will resolve this situation in an expedient and thorough manner.”

An Adidas spokesman had stated: “Adidas enjoys a long-term, close and successful partnership with FIFA that we are looking forward to continuing. Adidas will be an official sponsor of FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil. Having said that, the negative tenor of the public debate around FIFA at the moment is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners.”

In other news, overshadowed by the chaotic weekend, the FIFA Executive Committee decided to lift the suspensions on the football associations of Bosnia-Herzegovina (FFBH) and Brunei Darussalam (NFABD, formerly BAFA) during their meeting held yesterday, May 30, at the Home of FIFA in Zurich.