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Tuesday 27 June 2017

FIFA probes 'World Cup votes for sale' bribery claim

Nick Harris in London

Soccer's governing body, FIFA, has opened an investigation into allegations that two of its executives effectively agreed to sell their crucial votes that could determine where the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will be staged.

Undercover reporters filmed Amos Adamu, a FIFA Executive Committee (ExCo) member from Nigeria, suggesting that an $800,000 (€571,519) payment to build four artificial football pitches, paid directly to him, could swing his vote.

Another ExCo member, Reynald Temarii, a FIFA vice-president from Tahiti and the head of the Oceania regional confederation, intimated that his vote -- or one of his preferences -- might be influenced in exchange for £1.5m (€1.7m) in funding for a football academy in Auckland, New Zealand.

Mr Adamu and Mr Temarii are among 24 ExCo members scheduled to take part in a secret vote on December 2 to determine which nations will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.

Giving or receiving money for votes is strictly prohibited under FIFA bidding rules, as are any deals that might be interpreted as the procurement of votes.

Nobody linked in any way to the England's bid to host the 2018 tournament has been implicated in any untoward behaviour. It is bidding against Russia, and against joint bids from Portugal and Spain, and the Netherlands and Belgium.

There are five nations bidding for 2022: Australia, Japan, South Korea, the US and Qatar.

Sources close to FIFA's hierarchy have suggested the scheduled December 2 votes to decide the host nations may now be delayed.

It is understood that other accusations about alleged malpractices within the bidding process could surface.

Ethics

But one senior ExCo member, America's Chuck Blazer, said he could see no reason to delay the vote.

"The Ethics Committee will address these issues directly and it should not take them very long to ascertain all the facts," he said.

FIFA said in a statement: "FIFA has already requested to receive all of the information and documents related to this matter, and is awaiting to receive this material.

"In any case, FIFA will immediately analyse the material available and only once this analysis has concluded will Fifa be able to decide on any potential next steps."

The reporters for a British newspaper were posing as lobbyists working for American business interests, pretending they wanted to influence the voting in the US's favour.

The real US bid team had no involvement at all in the undercover exercise, the point of which was to investigate long-established rumours that the bidding process was potentially corruptible.

Mr Adamu was unavailable for comment last night. And the Ocean Federation (OFC) said it was "aware of the story ... as such, OFC is currently looking into the matter".

Meanwhile, FIFA president Sepp Blatter took the unusual step of issuing an open letter to members of the executive committee, telling them the newspaper report had created a "very negative impact" on soccer's governing body.

"I am sorry to have to inform you of a very unpleasant situation which has developed in relation to an article published today in the 'Sunday Times', entitled 'World Cup votes for sale'," Blatter wrote at www.fifa.com.

He added: "I will keep you duly informed of any further developments.

"In the meantime, I would like to ask you to refrain from making any public comments on this matter."

Irish Independent

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