ZURICH - Jerome Valcke, a former
television executive who has become one of the most powerful men
in sport, must hope fortune smiles on him again after scoring
the second own goal of his FIFA career.
Four and a half years ago Valcke lost his role as marketing
director at football's governing body following botched
negotiations over a sponsorship deal.
He bounced back from that setback in remarkable style when
he was appointed secretary general of FIFA only eight months
Now, the 50-year-old Frenchman is in trouble again after
denying on Monday he suggested in an email to FIFA
vice-president Jack Warner that Qatar had "bought" the rights to
host the 2022 World Cup.
"I'd like to clarify what I may use in an email - a
"lighter" way of expression by nature - a much less formal tone
than in any form of correspondence," Valcke said in a statement.
"Having said that, when I refer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup
in that email, what I wanted to say is the winning bid used
their financial strength to lobby for support.
"They were a candidate with a very important budget and have
used it to heavily promote their bid all round the world in a
very efficient manner," Valcke added.
"I have at no time made, or was intending to make, any
reference to any purchase of votes or similar unethical
Valcke is widely credited with the success of last year's
World Cup in South Africa, overseeing preparations and cajoling
local organisers into action when they threatened to fall behind
He is set to play a similar role with the 2014 World Cup
which is already being plagued by delays and worries over host
nation Brazil's creaking infrastructure.
A loyal follower of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, he joined
the organisation in 2003 after quitting as chief executive of
marketing firm Sportfive.
In his time as marketing director he was credited by Blatter
with building up FIFA reserves of 752 million Swiss francs ($612
Valcke's career appeared to be in ruins when, in December
2006, FIFA said it had "parted company" with him and three other
employees after a New York court ruled the marketing team had
"lied repeatedly" during talks with MasterCard and Visa.
Frenchman Valcke later described his part in the
negotiations as the biggest mistake of his life and said in an
interview with the Independent newspaper: "You have the feeling
everything is destroyed."
However, just eight months later he was back as FIFA's Secretary General, effectively the organisation's number two.
This came after an appeals court ordered the MasterCard case
to be re-examined. But the two sides instead reached an
out-of-court settlement, with FIFA agreeing to pay the credit
card company $90 million in compensation.
"It is like a dream for me," said Valcke when he was
reappointed in August 2007.
Asked about Valcke's predicament during a news conference
here on Monday, Blatter simply shrugged his shoulders and
declined to comment.
It was hardly the reassuring vote of confidence the
Frenchman would have been hoping for.
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