By Nick Harris
17 October 2010
As a Fifa investigation gets underway into reports in the Sunday Times (subscription, BBC story here) that two Fifa Executive Committee members were apparently prepared to sell their 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting votes, the scope of the inquiry is likely to move beyond the responses of those ExCo members to undercover reporters’ approaches.
Arguably even more serious than reports that Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Tahiti’s Reynald Temarii might be persuaded to cast their votes a certain way in return for investment in pet projects (by ST reporters posing as lobbyists), is the alleged claim by Temarii that two bidding nations, or parties related to two bidding nations, respectively offered him $10m and $12m for his vote.
If true (emphasis on if), that would be a scandal of Salt Lake Olympic proportions.
The Sunday Times allegations are in themselves extremely serious. No money changed hands and the ST was clearly never intending to nobble the vote(s), due to take place on 2 December unless the process is delayed because of the investigation. But the ST’s meticulous investigation, which involved meeting numerous former and current ExCo members and ‘fixers’ (deal makers), highlights potential corruptibility at the behest of pretend crooks. If it were proved that a real bidding nation or somebody working on their behalf had been offering to buy votes at $10m and upwards, there would be massive repercussions for all concerned.
Whether Temarii’s alleged claims can be a) verified and b) stood up is an altogether different question, but one certainly of concern to Fifa. Adamu and Temarii are among 24 ExCo members who will vote on the destinations of the 2018 and 2022 events. Bidding for 2018 (in alphabetical order): England, Netherlands-Belgium jointly, Portugal-Spain jointly, and Russia. Bidding for 2022: Australia, Japan, Qatar, South Korea and the USA.
Adamu was filmed suggesting that an $800,000 (£500,000) payment to build four artificial football pitches, paid directly to him, could swing his vote. 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 in funding for a football academy in Auckland.
In a letter to the ExCo members today, Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter wrote:
Dear members of the FIFA Executive Committee,
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 titled “World Cup votes for sale”.
The information in the article has created a very negative impact on FIFA and on the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups. Some current and former members of the Executive Committee are mentioned in the article. FIFA has reacted by providing the following statement to the media, which I would like to share with you:
FIFA and the FIFA Ethics Committee have closely monitored the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups and will continue to do so. 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. In the meantime, FIFA is not in a position to provide any further comments on this matter.
FIFA will stand by this statement, and will open an in depth investigation, which we will start immediately together with the FIFA Ethics Committee and the FIFA Secretary General.
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.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Joseph S. Blatter
Nobody linked in any way to the England bid has been implicated in any untoward behaviour but it has been suggested the ST investigation could harm England’s chances if Fifa perceived the English media to be trouble-making. Not true, Fifa sources have told sportingintelligence, insisting that allegations of such severity need to be looked at thoroughly, wherever they originate from.
The ST reporters were posing as lobbyists working for American business interests. The real USA bid team had no involvement at all.