Fifa vote-selling claims grow

25 October 2010 - 08:51 By Sapa-AFP

Allegations of vote selling in the race to host football’s World Cup spiralled on Sunday, after a British newspaper reported that a former FIFA general secretary had identified officials who could take money.

Meanwhile, Switzerland’s sports ministry confirmed reports that it is reviewing laws covering corruption in sport in the wake of the latest scandal to hit football’s governing body, which is based in the Swiss city of Zurich.

The Sunday Times reported that ex-FIFA general secretary, Michel Zen-Ruffinen, ran through an undisclosed list of the names with undercover reporters who were posing as lobbyists.

“X is nice, he’s a nice guy, but X is money,” he is shown saying of one man, adding of another: “X, it’s money, we can go to (a city) and talk with him on a terrace no problem.” Of a third unnamed figure, he added: “He’s the guy you can have with ladies and not with money.” The comments were captured when the journalists secretly filmed their conversation during a meal with Zen-Ruffinen, a Swiss lawyer, in Geneva, the paper said, a week after it first reported vote selling.

Zen-Ruffinen could not be contacted Sunday.

FIFA has vowed “zero tolerance”, provisionally suspending two executive committee members, Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii representing Oceania, pending a deeper investigation into the claims.

Four former senior FIFA committee members from Africa and the Pacific were also temporarily sidelined from footballing activities last Thursday ahead of an in-depth probe and ruling by the body’s ethics committee in mid-November.

Temarii has denied wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name.

The head of FIFA’s ethics committee, Claudio Sulser, said that the body unanimously took the decision after viewing evidence provided by the newspaper, including lengthy video recordings that had not been published at the time.

The move came just six weeks before FIFA’s executive committee chooses the winning host countries for 2018 and 2022, with an announcement due on December 2.

England and joint bids by Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium are in the running to host the 2018 World Cup. For 2022, the contenders are Australia, Japan, Qatar, Russia and South Korea.

In comments quoted by the newspaper, Zen-Ruffinen said he was “totally against” bribery and had only offered to make introductions.

The renewed spotlight on alleged impropriety among some of world football’s decision makers revives scandals in the 1990s and 2000s surrounding World Cup business.

Zen-Ruffinen, now a lawyer and football agent, left FIFA in 2002 after being forced out in a row with president Sepp Blatter over detailed allegations the general secretary made of financial impropriety at the governing body.

The Swiss newspaper Sonntagszeitung reported on Sunday that Swiss Defence and Sports minister Ueli Maurer had asked officials to review corruption laws on sport, with a view to possibly tightening the net.

“I can confirm the report,” defence and sports ministry spokesman Martin Buehler told AFP.

Apart from its own domestic sports associations, Switzerland is host to about 40 international federations such as FIFA, the European governing body UEFA and the International Olympic Committee.

Federal Sports Office spokesman Christoph Lauener told the newspaper that the review was due to Switzerland’s role as a host.

“Corruption is in the meantime a bigger danger for sports and its image than doping,” he added, with the growing commercialisation of sports.

Meanwhile, the FIFA ethics committee’s meeting in November could add another dimension to the affair. It is also due to rule on allegations of illicit collusion among member nations in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding.