ZURICH - FIFA's Ethics Committee cleared
president Sepp Blatter of any wrongdoing as two of football's most
senior officials were suspended on Sunday in the worst
corruption scandal to blight the sport's governing body.
Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, who hours earlier had ended his
campaign to unseat Blatter, was temporarily suspended along with
Jack Warner, president of the CONCACAF region covering north and
central America and the Caribbean.
Blatter was cleared of any breach of FIFA's statutes
following an emergency sitting of the independent committee,
freeing him to stand unopposed for a fourth term in charge of
FIFA in Wednesday's election.
Bin Hammam and Warner were accused of arranging to pay
delegates of the Caribbean Football Union $40,000 in cash to
vote for Blatter's only rival.
Both men are long-standing members of FIFA's all-powerful
24-man executive committee, 10 of whom have been subject to
allegations of corruption in the last year.
Bin Hammam, head of the Asian Football Confederation, and
Warner, a government minister in his native Trinidad & Tobago,
are now temporarily suspended from any football-related activity.
Both will be absent from the Congress where Blatter can
expect to be re-elected to the post he has held since 1998.
The case against Warner and Bin Hammam, who have denied any
wrongdoing, will be heard in July, according to Namibian judge
Petrus Damaseb who chaired Sunday's meeting.
Warner was furious at the outcome and told Reuters he had
been the victim of a kangaroo court.
"Blatter has to be stopped," he said of his former long-term
ally. "They came premeditated, they weren't prepared to listen,
they were hand-picked to do a task and they did just that," he
said of the hearing.
"The guys were hand-picked by Blatter... a
kangaroo court would be a decent thing to say."
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, who faced tough
questioning during a feisty hour-long news conference, said the
election would go ahead unless three-quarters of the 208
delegates voted to change the agenda.
"I am not FIFA, I can't change the agenda," Valcke said. "It
is up to the delegates - they have the final say."
Valcke agreed that FIFA was facing "a watershed moment,"
drawing comparisons with the International Olympic Committee's
crisis when IOC delegates were found guilty of taking bribes for
votes to award the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City.
This crisis, whose tentacles spread into the very heart of
the senior governance of the world's most popular and richest
sport, has arguably greater implications.
Unlike fairly anonymous IOC officials, Blatter is the most
famous sports politician in the world, has worked for FIFA for
more than 35 years and been president for the last 13.
During his time in charge, FIFA has grown rich through sales
of TV rights, sponsorship and merchandising opportunities and
currently boasts reserves of over $1 billion.
While FIFA's financial situation is sound, recent scandals
have provoked widespread calls for reform of the powerful
executive committee at the organisation's heart.
Last November, two other executive committee members, Reynald Temarii and
Amos Adamu, were banned over the cash-for-votes allegations
concerning the hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Asked if this was the lowest point in FIFA's 107-year
history, Valcke replied: "The reputation of FIFA? Maybe it's not
at the highest, that's clear. It's sad.
"Definitely, there is a need for change. I'm not the FIFA
president so he is the one who must decide what he wants to do
and FIFA must make the necessary changes so that the institution
has systems in place to avoid something like this happening
"This is the pattern of the work which we have to do very
quickly in the next few months."
He also dramatically produced an email from the president
of the Puerto Rico FA who stated that he had been offered a
$40,000 inducement, which he accepted, reported and was sending
In a statement issued after the news conference, Blatter
said: "The FIFA Ethics Committee has reached its decisions. I do
not wish to comment in detail but simply to say that I regret
what has happened in the last few days and weeks.
"FIFA's image has suffered a great deal as a result, much to
the disappointment of FIFA itself and all football fans."
Warner had promised to unleash a "tsunami" against FIFA.
"The complaints made in this matter are politically
motivated against Mr Bin Hammam and me and are designed, among
other things, to cause serious prejudice and damage to both Mr
Bin Hammam and myself at one of the most critical times for the
FIFA," he said.
Bin Hammam said he was very disappointed about the way the
status of the proceeding has been presented at the news
"I am expecting that this will continue," he said. "This is
not how I understand fair play. I'm reserving all my rights."
The key allegations concerned a meeting of the Caribbean
Football Union in May 10-11 in Port of Spain, attended by Warner
and Bin Hammam and Caribbean soccer officials.
Blatter was interrogated at Bin Hammam's request because he
may have known about payments, FIFA said, but Damaseb said
nothing wrong had been found.
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