News 7th December 2017

SAFA asks for repayment of US$10 million Diaspora fund

The South African Football Association (SAFA) has asked for the repayment of US$10 million that was deducted from the ticketing revenue from the 2010 FIFA World Cup to finance a Diaspora Legacy Programme in the Caribbean. In a 2015 indictment, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) alleged that the payment was intended as a bribe to secure votes for South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

In its 2017 Annual Report (PDF below), SAFA states it faced ‘massive legal costs’ due to its participation in a FIFA investigation into ‘governance lapses and misappropriation of funds arising out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Diaspora legacy project. We are happy to report that the conclusion of this investigation led to us discovering that SAFA was indeed owed the $10 million as it had been agreed by government that it would pay the money to SAFA in exchange for FIFA deducting it from the ticketing revenue due to SAFA after the conclusion of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The Association is currently pursuing the money.’

In a 10 May 2015 indictment, the DoJ alleges that ‘high-ranking officials of FIFA, the South African government and the South African bid committee […] were prepared to arrange for the government of South Africa to pay $10 million to CFU [Caribbean Football Union] to “support the African diaspora”’. It alleges that this was in exchange for votes from Jack Warner, Chuck Blazer and ‘Co-conspirator #17’, a high-ranking official of the Latin American football confederation (CONMEBOL) and a FIFA Executive Committee member, for South Africa to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Nicholás Leoz was President of CONMEBOL from 1986 to 2013, and was also a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee. He also features in the DoJ’s 25 November 2015 indictment, and has been accused of siphoning money from CONMEBOL to his personal bank accounts.

SAFA has previously denied that the 2004 payment was intended as a bribe, but no explanation has been given about how and why this sum was agreed, and no record appears to exist about how the money was spent. SAFA did not respond to questions about its pursuit of the $10 million.

A 2008 letter (PDF below) from then President of SAFA, Molefi Oliphant to then FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke shows that it was aware that an agreement had been reached between it, the South African government and FIFA for money to be withheld from its operational budget to finance the ‘Diaspora Legacy Programme’. The letter mentions that the payment was a decision of the South African government and given the statement in SAFA’s Annual Report, it would appear that the money was diverted to the Diaspora Legacy Programme, but the government has not returned it to SAFA.

The letter also mentions that the Diaspora Legacy Fund will be administered by the President of the Caribbean and North American football conferederaiton (CONCACAF), Jack Warner, who is currently resisting attempts to extradite him to the US from Trinidad. A FIFA statement issued at the time confirmed that SAFA and the South African government were party to the arrangement, but denied that its senior management were involved, which the above letter appears to contradict.

The fact that SAFA is attempting to reclaim the money raises a number of interesting questions:

1. Can SAFA legitimately claim money back from its government for a payment that is suspected by the DoJ as being intended as a bribe?
2. Do records exist of where the money went and how it was spent?
3. Who at FIFA knew about the payment?
4. Did FIFA check how and why ticketing revenue from the 2010 FIFA World Cup was being spent in the Caribbean?
5. Was FIFA in the habit of directing ticketing money from the World Cup to development projects in other countries?

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