Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke has confirmed that an email in which he made the sensational allegation that Qatar "bought" the 2022 World Cup is genuine.
The email was revealed last night by Jack Warner hours after he and Mohamed Bin Hammam, until yesterday Sepp Blatter’s only rival for the Fifa presidential vote on Wednesday, were suspended from the governing body pending an investigation in to corruption allegations.
They are accused of offering Caribbean football officials up to $1m in exchange for their votes for Bin Hammam in the presidential election.
The revelation of Valcke’s views on the successful Qatar 2022 bid has opened up another front in the deepening corruption scandal that is engulfing the organisation.
According to Warner, the email from Valcke to him stated: "For MBH [Mohamed Bin Hammam], I never understood why he was running. If really he thought he had a chance or just being an extreme way to express how much he does not like anymore JSB [Blatter]. Or he thought you can buy Fifa as they bought the WC."
In Zurich this morning, Valcke said: "It was a private email and we will discuss it. He sent me an email asking if I want that [Bin Hammam to run], he said that I should ask Bin Hammam to pull out."
Valcke’s statement raises questions oversight of the World Cup bidding process, and over his future as general secretary. The revelation that Fifa’s most senior administrator harbours doubts over the probity of the 2022 World Cup bid but has not apparently acted upon them cuts to the heart of concerns over the governing body’s governance.
The Qatar bid was accused in Parliament of paying $1.5m bribes to two executive committee members but Valcke insisted in a press briefing on Sunday that Fifa did not have sufficient evidence to open an investigation.
Should he be found to have harboured reservations of his own and not acted he will face pressure to resign.
Qatar 2022 has issued a statement denying the allegation and said it will ask for an explanation of Valcke’s comments.
"Qatar 2022 categorically deny any wrong doing in connection with their winning bid. We are urgently seeking clarification from Fifa about the statement from their General Secretary,” the statement said. “In the meantime we are taking legal advice to consider our options."
Bin Hammam responded to the claims, telling BBC Sport: "You would have to ask Jerome Valcke what he was thinking. I don't know why he has said that.
"If I was paying money for Qatar you also have to ask the 13 people who voted for Qatar."
Asked whether Valcke's allegation was true he dismissed it, saying: "What do you think?"
In an increasingly rancorous atmosphere in Zurich Warner said today that the ethics committee proceedings that saw him banned pending an investigation into bribery allegations were a “kangaroo court”.
"They came premeditated, they weren't prepared to listen, they were hand-picked to do a task and they did just that. The guys were hand-picked by Blatter. A kangaroo court would be a decent thing to say,” he said.
Warner also claimed in his statement that Blatter made a gift of $1m to the CONCACAF federation, of which he is president, on May 3 to “spend as it deems fit”.
He said Michel Platini had complained to Valcke because Blatter had no permission from the finance committee to make the gift.
“Jerome replied that he will find the money for Mr Blatter,” Warner said.
He also said that at the Caribbean Football Union meeting in Trinidad on May 10, Fifa, through Blatter, “organised gifts of laptops and projectors to all members of the Caribbean and no objections have been made of this to date.”
Blatter will stand unopposed in Wednesday’s vote after he was cleared of any wrongdoing by Fifa’s ethics committee while his challenger, Bin Hammam was suspended pending a full investigation into bribery allegations.
Bin Hammam, meanwhile, accused Valcke of “influencing” the ethics committee process and of pursuing the investigation for political advantage, claims echoed by Warner.
He was particularly angered by Valcke’s revelation during a press briefing, in an apparently clear breach of process, that he had received an email from the Puerto Rican FA backing the allegations and claiming that they had been given $40,000. Valcke said that he thought more nations might come forward to back the claims.
“I have been given the impression that the Ethics Committee is absolutely an independent committee, but in the press conference we have seen today, the General Secretary made clear that he is the one who has the influence in this committee,” Bin Hammam said.
The descent into civil war between Fifa’s senior figures came after the ethics committee announced that Warner and Bin Hammam will face a protracted investigation, and Valcke insisted there was nothing to stop the election proceeding.
Blatter was cleared by the ethics committee of any wrongdoing after being accused by Bin Hammam of knowing about the Trinidad payments and not reporting them.
Announcing the decision ethics committee deputy chairman Petrus Damaseb of Namibia said that as no payments had been made at the time Blatter was warned he had no case to answer.
Referring to Warner and Bin Hammam, Damaseb said: “We are assuming they are innocent until proven guilty but we are satisfied that there is a case to answer.” Damaseb said they would face a full investigation with independent investigators and legal counsel assisting the ethics commission.
He said it hoped to report within 30 days, but that the bans to Warner and Bin Hammam could be extended if required. With Blatter clearly having benefited politically from the allegations against Bin Hammam there a case for postponing the election while the investigation is completed.
A delay to allow an independent review might restore some confidence in Fifa’s reputation, but Blatter and Valcke are determined to press ahead, with the president expected to present his fourth term as a mandate for reform. Many will doubt his sincerity given a previous reluctance to tackle allegations of corruption.
The danger for Fifa is that with recriminations rife there is no knowing what allegations may surface.
Valcke acknowledged that the severity and timing of the allegations represented a “watershed moment” for Fifa, but insisted that there was no reason to delay the election.
“Maybe [Fifa’s reputation] is not at the highest, that is clear, and it is sad,” Valcke said. “I am not the Fifa president, it is for him to decide what to do, but I am clear we want to put systems in place to ensure that this does not happen again.
“The most important thing is a commitment from all the members of executive committee and president to ensure change at Fifa, so that in his last mandate Fifa is stronger and cleaner than it was. But if you are asking me am I happy that Blatter is elected president, the answer is yes.”
Valcke also revealed that an FA inquiry into allegations of corruption in the 2018 World Cup bidding process made by former chairman Lord Triesman had found no supporting evidence from other bid members. Blatter said in a statement that he regretted the damaging impact of recent events.
Meanwhile Chuck Blazer, the Fifa executive committee member who launched the investigation into Warner and Bin Hammam said he felt obliged to act after being presented with firm evidence of bribes.
“Of course it was difficult,” he said. “But what is more difficult is to ignore the fact that attempts were made to suborn members — it really wasn’t a choice.
“I said to Jack [Warner]: ‘What are you doing? In 21 years we have never bought a vote.’ Once you have done that you have let the genie out of the bottle and for any issue, people will say: ‘OK, how much are you putting on the table?”’