British MPs accuse Fifa of cover-up

Sepp Blatter’s commitment to reforming Fifa has been questioned. (FILE)

A government inquiry into corruption allegations surrounding World Cup bids has accused Fifa of trying to brush aside the evidence and has questioned president Sepp Blatter’s commitment to reforming the organisation.

The 31-page report, issued by a Commons Select Committee, has called for Fifa to “commission a full, urgent and independent investigation” into the allegations surrounding the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

It also says it finds Fifa’s decision to drop investigations into alleged wrongdoing by Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago, who resigned from Fifa’s executive committee last month after 28 years rather than face corruption charges, as “extraordinary.”

Among a number of conclusions, the report states: “We were appalled by the allegations of corruption made against members of the Fifa Executive Committee during the course of our inquiry.

“Although they have been challenged in other evidence, they are sufficiently serious for Fifa to commission a full, urgent and independent investigation and for the outcome to be made public.

“Instead, Fifa has given every impression of wishing to sweep all allegations of misconduct under the carpet and dismissing anyone bringing allegations to them with an approach bordering on contempt.”

The report urges Fifa to review its bidding process for future World Cups and to reform itself as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) did following allegations of bribery and corruption into Salt Lake City’s bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

However, the report said Blatter’s record did not inspire confidence that this would happen.

“We look to him now to fulfil the undertakings he gave at the time of his re-election to the presidency,” it said. “We urge the FA, and other national associations to ensure he is held to account for them.”

Committee member Damian Collins MP told Reuters in a telephone interview prior to the report’s publication: “We are very concerned at the contempt Fifa showed when the evidence was presented to them. It is absolutely shocking at how little scrutiny there is of how Fifa executive members go about their business.

“Fifa may govern football, but it does not own football, and the way it operates would not be acceptable in any other organisation. Fifa needs to be far more transparent.”

Initially, the inquiry, comprising MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, was set up to examine how the game is run in England and to examine the failure of England’s bid to stage the 2018 World Cup which was awarded to Russia last December. On the same day, Fifa awarded the 2022 finals to Qatar.

Subsequently in May, David Triesman, the former chairman of the English FA, gave evidence to the committee alleging that four members of the Fifa executive committee had demanded favours in return for voting for England.

Allegations made by the 'Sunday Times' newspaper were also raised during the inquiry. Collins added that the way Fifa had dismissed those allegations was “hugely disappointing.”

As well as being critical of Fifa, the report is also critical of Triesman, whose allegations in May against Fifa executive committee members Warner, Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay, Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil and Worawi Makudi of Thailand made headlines across the world and set alarm bells ringing.

Triesman resigned as FA chairman in May last year after being taped making what proved to be unfounded allegations against 2018 bid rivals Russia and Spain.

He told the Committee he did not make his allegations earlier for fear of harming England’s bid, but following his assertions to the Committee regarding the four Fifa members, the English FA commissioned a report into his allegations, which could not be backed up.

The committee added: “It is frustrating and disappointing that Lord Triesman did not see fit to raise his allegations...when he first became aware of them. We welcome the undertaking he gave us that he would now raise his allegations with Fifa so that it could conduct an investigation.”

The Committee has also recommended that the English FA conducts a review into the failures of the World Cup bid, which cost the FA and local councils more than 17 million pounds and ended up securing just two votes, one from England’s own representatives, when the vote was taken by the executive committee, in Zurich on December 2 last year.

Under current Fifa rules, after Russia hosts the 2018 World Cup, it will not return to Europe until 2030.

The report concludes that English influence in Fifa and in European football’s governing body UEFA is poor due to a number of historic and current perceptions including an arrogant approach to other countries.

With no bids possible for a World Cup for at least another decade, the committee recommends: “The FA can perhaps afford to play a long game, and to consolidate its position as a leading internal advocate of Fifa reform.”

The FA gave a statement in response to the report.

“We have always acknowledged the level of disappointment amongst the public and everyone who was involved in the unsuccessful England 2018 Bid, particularly when we were very confident England’s technical bid was the strongest following feedback from FIFA’s inspection group,” it said.

“Our focus is now on ensuring that the FA and all of English footballwork towards building stronger and more enduring international relationships.

“We can confirm that the FA chairman David Bernstein has began a process of evaluating our current representation on Fifa and UEFA committees, while determining how we can best strengthen our international relationships, both formally and informally.”


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