“I can only answer for myself,” said FIFA President Sepp Blatter, trying to distance himself from the four members of the football governing body’s executive committee who were accused of asking for favours to vote for England in its World Cup bid.
“They are not elected by the same Congress that I am elected, they are coming from the others (elsewhere), so I cannot say they are all angels or all devils,” Blatter said.
Mr. Blatter’s reaction comes after former English Football Association chairman David Triesman, who also headed the country’s effort in its World Cup 2018 candidacy, slammed the behaviour of FIFA’s executive members.
In a parliamentary hearing on May 10, Triesman alleged that Jack Warner, FIFA vice-president from Trinidad and Tobago, asked for £2.5 million for the construction of an education centre in order to support England’s bid.
He also told the parliamentary committee that FIFA’s Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay asked for a knighthood in return for his backing. The two others that Triesman mentioned were Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil and Worawi Makudi of Thailand.
Andrew Jennings, a British journalist who’s been investigating FIFA for a decade, claims he is the only reporter in the world banned from the organisation’s headquarters. He revealed in a Panorama programme for the BBC in November that three FIFA executives took bribes.
He also showed a confidential letter written to Warner in which FIFA asks his family business to “donate $1 million to charity to compensate for the profits it had made through the re-sale of 2006 FIFA world Cup tickets.”
Footage was shown of Jennings’ several attempts to talk to those FIFA officials, but none wanted to answer. On one occasion, Warner tells him: “If I could’ve spat on you, I would have spat on you,” then reasoning “because you’re garbage.”
Warner has responded to the Triesman allegations by saying “First of all, I laugh like hell because it took those guys from December to now [to say] that I have £2.5m, I believe. I never asked anybody for anything.”
Sunday Times claims
The Sunday Times newspaper gave evidence to parliament before Triesman. They accused two other FIFA executives of taking $1.5 million in bribes to support Qatar’s successful 2022 bid. Cameroon’s Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma of Ivory Coast were the officials named.
The newspaper’s undercover journalists also found out last autumn that Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii had offered to sell their votes. That resulted in the suspension of the executives.
FIFA’s executive committee comprises of 24 men who decide on World Cup hosts from their headquarters in Zurich.
Blatter’s chance to act?
Blatter, who faces a vote for his re-election to the post of FIFA president at the beginning of June, has called on the FA and Sunday Times for evidence. The organisation that governs football has one third of its executive committee members accused of corruption or breaking the body’s code of ethics.
Jennings said in Panorama that Blatter had not taken any action on previous bribery cases.
Critics have urged FIFA to be accountable and transparent. But with so much at stake, even angels may be tempted to undergo devilish transformations.
By Ali Sheikholeslami