FIFA has suspended two members of its executive committee following allegations that they solicited bribes from bidding parties in the race to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
An article recently published in the Sunday Times of London held that FIFA executive members Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii had each invited sums of up to $2 million to possibly sway their votes.
According to the article, journalists posing as supporters of the U.S. World Cup bid caught both officials encouraging the offers of such sums of money in order to fund their personal projects.
Amos Adamu, director of sports development in Nigeria, is said to have been caught on film by the undercover journalists seeking some $800,000 to go to building artificial football fields in his native country.
Reynald Temarii, president of the Oceania Football Confederations, was also apparently filmed soliciting a sum of $2 million for putting up a new soccer academy in Auckland, New Zealand.
Temarii denies bribery claims, but concedes that he should have gone about matters differently: “I’m confident about my integrity but I made a mistake by talking in that way.” He has encouraged Sepp Battler, president of FIFA, to proceed with the probe which he thinks will illuminate matters and clear his case. “I asked [him] to investigate. I gave him a letter. It’s important for me that the ethics committee investigates how I manage my relations with bidders.”
Though the article mentions journalists posing as supporters of the U.S. bid, and Adamu apparently promised to give the Americans his vote for the 2018 campaign, in fact the U.S. bid committee, headed by Sunil Gulati, said that their party had nothing to do with the report. “The Sunday Times report today makes it clear, but it bears emphasis and repeating, that the USA bid committee had no involvement with any aspect of the reporting that resulted in this story. This is a matter that is totally under the governance of FIFA, and therefore we will have no further comment.”
The US has since decided to abandon their 2018 campaign and compete in the elections for hosting the 2022 event instead.
After a unanimous vote, the FIFA ethics committee decided to immediately suspend both Adamu and Tamarii. Slim Aloulou, Ismael Bhamjee, Amadou Diakite, and Ahongalu Fusimalohi are four other officials associated with the bribery scandal and also face suspension. This “provisional” suspension will be enforced for 30 days, subject to extension. Blatter issued a letter to the executive committee following the allegations against the six officials, expressing his regret about how the situation has weakened the already threatened integrity of football’s governing body. “The information in the article has created a very negative impact on FIFA and on the bidding process… Some current and former members of the executive committee are mentioned,” he said. Blatter assured the committee and the public that FIFA will use all means necessary to come to an informed and conclusive investigation of the matter.
If these officials are indeed found guilty of selling their votes, the matter of most interest to football’s international community is perhaps not what sanctions will be imposed on the them, but what action will be taken against the bidding nations found to have been offering bribes to sway committee voters.
The 2018 bids to host the World Cup are all European, with England, Russia, and joint candidates Belgium-Netherlands and Spain-Portugal.
The 2022 candidates, all outside Europe, are Australia, Japan, South Korea, Qatar, and the United States. All the bidding nations have denied any involvement in buying committee votes.
The voting for both the 2018 and 2022 campaigns will take place on the same day, possibly encouraging alliances to be formed between bidding nations hoping to host the tournament. To avoid any cases of vote-swapping, FIFA has reminded the candidates that they are forbidden from entering into any agreements with each other or with committee members that would lead to collusion in the voting process.
This bribery scandal as well as the speculation about possible vote-swapping puts FIFA under the gun yet again. During the 2010 World Cup, much was made of the questionable calls made by a number of referees throughout the tournament, leading to the dismissal of members of the officiating committee.