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International soccer roiled by accusations of bribery and vendettas

A day after two FIFA leaders are suspended, allegations fly about 'kangaroo court,' Qatar's bid for 2022 World Cup and motives of current FIFA president running for reelection.

May 30, 2011|By Grahame L. Jones
  • Jack Warner talks to journalists in the lobby of a hotel in Zurich on Monday following his suspension from all FIFA-related activities for his alleged involvement in a bribery scandal.
Jack Warner talks to journalists in the lobby of a hotel in Zurich on Monday… (Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters )

Jack Warner, the suspended vice president of FIFA, had warned over the weekend that "a tsunami" was about to strike international soccer's governing body.

On Monday, that storm hit with a vengeance as Warner accused FIFA of operating "a kangaroo court" and released an email in which Jerome Valcke, FIFA's general secretary, stated that Qatar had "bought" the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar, which finished ahead of the U.S. in the Dec. 2 vote to stage the quadrennial tournament, immediately objected and said it would consider legal action.

Valcke then issued a statement in which he tried to clarify what he had said in the email leaked by Warner.

Meanwhile, speculation continued that should Qatar's bid be found to have been unethically won, the 2022 World Cup could still be awarded to the U.S., which lost the initial vote, 13-4.

In Australia, which was also a 2022 candidate, Nick Xenophon, a member of the Australian senate, asked FIFA to reimburse the money it spent on its bid.

"It appears corrupt and highly questionable behavior goes to the core of FIFA," he said. "Australia spent almost $49 million on a bid we were never in the running for."

In a second broadside Monday, this one aimed at Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, FIFA's president, Warner said that Blatter, who is running for reelection, had "made a gift" on May 3 of $1 million to soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) region "to spend as it deems fit."

He said Blatter had also "organized gifts of laptops and projectors to all members of the Caribbean" soccer confederation.

Warner has been CONCACAF's president for the last 21 years. He was provisionally suspended from all soccer activity Sunday by FIFA's ethics committee, as was Mohammad Bin Hammam, president of the Asian Football Confederation, for the alleged bribery and attempted bribery of CONCACAF members.

Warner's Monday accusation suggested Blatter was equally at fault for trying to buy votes as Bin Hammam, who is accused of offering $40,000 in cash to CONCACAF members attending a May 11 meeting in Trinidad organized by Warner.

Bin Hammam was running against Blatter for the FIFA presidency until he announced his withdrawal Sunday shortly before being suspended.

Valcke was the man on the hot seat Monday and reacted to Warner's charges by clarifying how Qatar had won the right to stage the 2022 World Cup.

"What I wanted to say is that the winning bid used their financial strength to lobby for support," Valcke said. "They were a candidate with a very important budget and have used it to heavily promote their bid all around the world in a very efficient manner.

"I have at no time made, or was intending to make, any reference to any purchase of votes or similar unethical behavior.

"I would also like to clarify that there is, as I said yesterday, no investigation open at FIFA regarding the 2022 FIFA World Cup host election."

Whether that would be enough to placate Qatar was uncertain after the organizing committee's statement Monday afternoon: "Qatar 2022 categorically deny any wrongdoing in connection with their winning bid. We are urgently seeking clarification from FIFA about the statement from their general secretary.

"In the meantime, we are taking legal advice to consider our options."

Warner, a FIFA executive committee member for almost 30 years, was infuriated by his suspension by FIFA's ethics committee, pending further investigation.

"I look on the suspension as the worst form of justice by any sporting organization," he said. "They came premeditated, they weren't prepared to listen, they were hand-picked to do a task and they did just that.

"The guys were hand-picked by Blatter. A kangaroo court would be a decent thing to say."

Bin Hammam's reaction to his suspension was along the same lines.

"The way these proceedings have been conducted is absolutely not compliant with any principles of justice," he said. "I am punished before I am found guilty. I get the impression that the outcome of these proceedings had been defined from the very beginning."

Suspension of the 62-year-old Qatari has fueled suspicion, particularly among Middle Eastern observers, that it was all a ploy by Blatter to rid himself of a rival for the presidency.

There was a belief Monday that Asian voters might either boycott Wednesday's FIFA Congress in Zurich or abstain from voting in the presidential election, as England, one of 208 FIFA members, already has said it would do.

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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