FIFA boss faces ethics probe as scandal deepens
Published 28/05/2011 | 05:00
WITH lavish pre-match entertainment and an all-you-can-eat buffet, it is unsurprising that Sepp Blatter remains undecided about attending tonight's Champions League final at Wembley.
Any juxtaposition with fast-fingered trickery and gluttony is unlikely to be helpful to the Fifa president and his organisation in the coming days.
Football's global governing body is in the grip of internecine strife that threatens to tear the wealthy organisation apart.
Yesterday it placed Mr Blatter under investigation as part of a widening bribery scandal ahead of Wednesday's ballot to decide whether the 75-year-old Swiss is re-elected to another term.
The charge against the veteran Fifa president comes from Mohamed bin Hammam, once a close ally of Mr Blatter, but now challenging him for his position. Mr Bin Hammam is also under investigation for corruption.
As a result, the Zurich high temple of the planet's biggest team sport, which announced four-year revenues topping £2.4bn (€2.7bn) for the first time, faces the spectacle this weekend of having its two potential leaders led before a corruption inquiry. Four days later, one half of this dysfunctional double act will be voted president of Fifa in a secret ballot.
All of this will take place against a background where eight of the 24 Fifa executive committee members who decided the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts in December face corruption allegations.
Mr Blatter, accused of turning a blind eye to alleged cash bribes of £24,000 (€27,000) paid earlier this month to Caribbean delegates, must now submit a statement by the end of today to Fifa's ethics committee ahead of a formal hearing tomorrow.
In a statement, Mr Blatter said: "I cannot comment on the proceedings that have been opened against me. The facts will speak for themselves."
With the row threatening to overshadow tonight's European showpiece between Manchester United and Barcelona, the Conservative sports minister, Hugh Robertson, led calls for Wednesday's election to be cancelled, saying the bribery allegations had become a "farce".
The scandal reinforced calls for an overhaul of Fifa, which has been dogged by claims of corruption, opacity and bloated bureaucracy in recent years.
Mr Bin Hammam (62), the Qatari head of the Asia Football Confederation, was accused last week along with Fifa vice-president Jack Warner of offering cash bribes to 25 delegates at a conference in Trinidad, where Mr Warner is a government minister. Both men, who have denied any wrongdoing, will appear before FIFA's ethics committee. (© Independent News Service)