LONDON - FIFA handed out its harshest ever
punishment to six senior officials on Thursday in a move partly
designed to show the sport's world governing body as a
corruption-free, transparent organisation.
Whether it does or not remains to be seen, but if Thursday's
sanctions help FIFA begin to repair the image problem it has had
for years, then the actions must be applauded.
FIFA suspended and fined two members of its ruling executive
committee and did the same to four other officials following
allegations of corruption made by the British Sunday Times
newspaper last month.
Claudio Sulser, the former Swiss international footballer
turned lawyer and chairman of the Ethics Committee who ruled
against the six, said the entire affair had done little to help
FIFA's image but hoped it might change perceptions.
"The damage caused to FIFA's image is great.
"When one talks of FIFA there is generally a negative
attitude out there - talk of corruption and so on - but it's
no joke because FIFA is a big organisation with many interests
and certain things can go awry.
"The difference now is we are trying to work in complete
However, FIFA only acted against executive committee members
Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti and four
other officials after the allegations were published by The
Sunday Times last month.
They were not discovered by any internal investigation FIFA
launched on its own and there is a general perception that the
governing body has begrudgingly taken the action it has.
Sulser criticised The Sunday Times's methods but if the
newspaper had not conducted their investigation the fact that
Adamu and Temarii were prepared to act unethically would not
have come to light.
Even though Sulser was critical of the newspaper, clearly
the ethics committee believed there was enough truth in their
stories to take the action they did, and subsequently announce
Thursday's severe sanctions.
The six men involved - Adamu, Temarii of the executive
committee, the influential Slim Aloulou of Tunisia, Ismael
Bhamjee of Botswana, Ahongalu Fusimalohi of Tonga and Amadou
Diakite of Mali - were all fined and suspended from any
football-related activity for a combined total of 16 years.
The most serious punishments affect Adamu and Temarii and
directly affect the vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals
which are being held on December 2 in Zurich.
The vote will now be taken by 22 members of the executive
committee rather than 24 with FIFA's secretary general Jerome
Valcke announcing that CAF and the OFC would have to nominate
new members for their executive committees.
Valcke also thought Thursday's rulings were good for FIFA,
proving the governing body will not tolerate any wrongdoing as
far as the World Cup votes are concerned.
At the same time as finding the six officials guilty, the
committee decided allegations of vote-trading collusion between
Spain/Portugal, who are bidding for 2018, and Qatar, who are
bidding for 2022, were unfounded.
"This was important for the future." Valcke told a news
conference after the findings were announced.
"It shows that we have a structure, with the Ethics
Committee, which was appointed to monitor the bidding process
and thus we had all the tools to ensure - knowing how big the
World Cup has become -- that no one can challenge the way we run
That process still has two weeks to go with at least one
more sting in the tail expected.
The BBC intend to run a Panorama documentary three days
before the vote focusing on allegations of FIFA corruption
which, it is widely predicted, will damage England's bid.
According to leaked information, the programme has no new
revelations and will largely rehash old allegations dealt with
by the Swiss courts many years ago.
It is that kind of negativity FIFA has to fight against.
Thursday's developments may just be the start of the governing
body's attempts to change old perceptions.
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