News 9 June 2015

FIFA Daily Update: Russia & Qatar may have bought World Cup

A former advisor to FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has suggested that Russia and Qatar may have bought the rights to host the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups. “In Fifa, for many years, you could only reach your goal by taking dollars in your hands”, Guido Tognoni told BBC Sport. Asked if countries had any choice other than to bribe Fifa during the bidding process, Tognoni replied: “This speculation is permitted, yes”. Yesterday Domenico Scala, independent Chairman of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee said that Russia and Qatar could lose the right to host the World Cup if evidence of bribery during the bidding process emerges.

Tognoni, who worked alongside Blatter during the 1990s and between 2001 and 2003, has made these allegations before. When asked about rumours that bribes were paid to secure both tournaments, Tognoni told the HandelsZeitung in 2012: “Due to how FIFA has operated until now, all speculation is allowed”. However, he said that evidence would be necessary for a revote. “Before we speak about those measures, we would need to have evidence on the table”, he told the newspaper. “In the corruption case involving ISL [International Sports Licensing, FIFA’s former TV marketing partner for the World Cup], it took eleven years from the bankruptcy of the company to the administrative finding of corruption”.

FIFA’s response reiterated the need for evidence. ‘FIFA initiated the investigation by the Swiss authorities precisely to answer questions such as this’, read a statement issued to the BBC. ‘However, while investigations are ongoing, it should be noted that to date, no evidence has come to light to suggest there are any legal grounds for rescinding the current Fifa World Cup selections’.

Alexei Sorokin, head of the organising committee for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, denied that Russia had bought the tournament. “We are getting close to being exhausted about having to repeatedly stress our bid was clean, our bid was very transparent, it was done in accordance with all the practices that are in place in FIFA”, Sorokin told the BBC’s HARDtalk programme. “We have undergone investigation by Mr. Garcia and his colleagues. At the request of FIFA, we submitted all the documents and don’t know what else we could do about this investigation. We have been openly exonerated by this investigation.”

‘We wish to reiterate that we have fully complied with every investigation that has been initiated  concerning the 2018/2022 bidding process and will continue to do so, should this be requested’, read a 29 May statement from the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. ‘We conducted our bid with integrity and to the highest ethical standards’. It has yet to respond to more recent allegations.

Other FIFA News

• The BBC says it has documents proving that US prosecutors are investigating allgations that former FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner, diverted US$750,000 intended to help victims of the Haiti earthquake into bank accounts he controlled. Warner visited the country in 2010 and raised the money from FIFA and the Korean football association, however it is alleged that it never arrived at its intended destination. The BBC says US authorities are examining 75 bank accounts controlled by Warner.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said that there is “no comparison” between what is currently happening at FIFA and allegations of bribery to secure the 2002 Winter Olympics for Salt Lake City. “The difference in magnitude is enormous”, he told media yesterday after an IOC meeting in Lausanne.

• “I will say that in conversations that I’ve had here, in Europe, people think that it’s very important for FIFA to be able to operate with integrity and transparency and accountability”, US President Barack Obama yesterday told the Group of Seven economic summit in Krün, Germany. “And as the investigations and charges proceed, I think that although football is a game, it is also a massive business, it is a source of incredible national pride, and people want to make sure that it operates with integrity. The United States by the way, seeing as we keep on getting better and better at each World Cup, wants to make sure that a sport that is gaining popularity is conducted in a upright manner.”

• FIFA film United Passions, which tracks the story of FIFA, has taken just US$600 from its opening weekend in the US. The film, which was 90% financed by FIFA, is reported to have cost between US$29 million and US$32 million, larger than the revenue of many of FIFA’s member associations. It is reported that the film has run up losses of US$26.8 million. The film was released at the same time that FIFA executives were arrested in Zurich, although it is understood that this wasn’t planned as a promotional exercise.

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