Fifa polls mired in claims of controversy

2011-05-28 20:10

Wednesday’s Fifa presidential elections are turning out to be the ugliest since the organisation came into being on May 21, 1904 in Paris.

That is if the elections go ahead as scheduled as there are already calls for them to be postponed until the air is cleared around ­allegations of corruption levelled against top Fifa officials.

These have not spared even the two protagonists, incumbent Sepp Blatter and his challenger Mohamed Bin Hammam, who are now scheduled to appear before the organisation’s ethics ­committee today.

This follows revelations by the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean ­Association Football (Concacaf) secretary-general Jack Blazer that Bin Hammam was involved in some shenanigans of offering cash incentives to some members leading up to the congress.

He also implicated Concacaf president Jack Warner from the Caribbean – who for a long time has been regarded as a ­kingmaker within Fifa due to the 35 votes that his region carries.

Warner has also been ­summoned to appear before the ­ethics committee today.

In a startling revelation, Blazer told Fifa that the body’s ethics code was violated at a “special meeting” of the Caribbean ­Football Union on May 10 and 11.

The meeting in Trinidad is said to have been organised as part of Bin Hammam’s globe-trotting campaign to gain support for his bid to take charge at Fifa.

Blatter and Bin Hammam have protested their innocence in the whole rigmarole as Hammam have claimed that if he had offered sweetners, then the former must be in the know.

 “It has been a difficult and painful day for me today but, if there is even the slightest justice in the world, these allegations will vanish in the wind. This move is little more than a tactic being used by those who have no confidence in their own ability to emerge ­successfully from the Fifa presidential election,” said Bin Hammam in a statement.

“I will speak to Mr Warner and offer him my full support in ensuring we are ­discharged honourably by the Fifa Ethics Committee, a body which I hold in the highest ­esteem. I am confident that there is no charge to answer and that I will be free to stand in the Fifa presidential election on 1st June as originally planned.”

Blatter issued a brief statement saying: “I cannot comment on the proceedings that have been opened against me today. The facts will speak for themselves.”

For an organisation that has seen its profits leapfrog from the $663 million (about R4 592 million) made from the 1994 World Cup hosted in the USA to a staggering $3.5 billion from last year’s event in South Africa, Fifa has been on shaky grounds since a British ­newspaper published an article alleging bribes had been paid to decide the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 world cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

Since then, Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Tahiti’s Reynald Temarii have been kicked out of Fifa.

Today, nine of the remaining 22 executive members are ­embroiled in accusations of ­corruption.

Only Fifa’s 208 voting members can determine whether this is a healthy atmosphere to go ­into such an important election.

Since taking over as president in 1998, the 75-year-old Blatter has easily dealt with opposition that first came from Uefa president Lennart Johanneson and Confederation of African Football (Caf) president Issa Hayatou.

However, the 62-year-old Bin Hammam seems to be a different ­kettle of fish. The ultra-rich ­Qatari has not spoken about ­corruption in Fifa but has promised a more transparent administration in his election manifesto.

Should the voting go ahead, Caf and Uefa will carry more weight as they each carry 53 votes, since each national football association has a single vote.

Warner’s Concacaf is the second most powerful bloc with 35 votes. England has taken a stand not to vote.

Hayatou is also implicated in the scandal as, together with Ivorian Jaqcues Anouma, they are ­accused of having received $1.5 million each to vote for Qatar, which in turn implicates Bin Hammam because he comes from that region.

So far, there are no reports on whetehr the British whistle-blower who was to present evidence to Fifa on Wednesday did indeed appear. Some reports say there is no concrete evidence to support allegations made by Lord David Triesman under ­parliamentary protection while Blazer is said to have compiled his accusations with the assistance of a top lawyer from his country.

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