Fifa World Cup: Blatter shrugs off corruption revelations

By Matt Lawton

Sepp Blatter.
Sepp Blatter.

Sepp Blatter, the under-fire Fifa president, has shrugged off the increasing pressure to act over allegations of corruption around the bidding process that enabled Qatar to secure the 2022 World Cup.

Despite further revelations of bribery claims surrounding the selection of Qatar - and Russia for the 2018 tournament - Blatter stuck to Fifa's party line yesterday.

He took to Twitter to say simply: "Never ignoring media reports on ethics allegations in football. But let the Ethics Committee work!"

This was a reference to the inquiry already being carried out by Fifa's own investigator, New York lawyer Michael Garcia, who is set to complete his report today.

Against the backdrop of public statements of concern from Sony, Visa and adidas, who pay millions to sponsor the World Cup, 78-year-old Blatter will attempt to carry on regardless, particularly as the 2014 World Cup is due to begin in Brazil on Friday and in the week when Fifa will also stage their annual congress in Sao Paulo.

While Blatter will face more calls this week to order a new vote, he is due to deliver his address to congress tomorrow.

The response from the three main sponsors, who are calling for a thorough investigation, follows yet more revelations in the Sunday Times, with yesterday's evidence from a cache of millions of documents alleging a more direct link between the disgraced former Fifa vice-president, Mohamed bin Hammam, and the Qatar bid team.

This comes after Qatar officials insisted that bin Hammam was working independently of the bid, with any payments he might have made to Fifa officials designed only to secure support in his attempt to usurp Blatter as Fifa president.

In a statement yesterday, adidas followed Sony in voicing concerns. "We are confident that the matter is being dealt with as a priority," said the German sportswear brand, their sponsorship deal with Fifa due to run until 2030.

"Adidas enjoys a long-term and successful partnership with Fifa that we are looking forward to continue. Having said that, the negative tenor of the public debate around Fifa at the moment is neither good for football nor for Fifa and its partners."

By then Sony had already called for a "thorough investigation" into the bribery claims, while Visa said it was monitoring the progress of the Garcia investigation.

"We expect Fifa will take the appropriate actions to respond to the report and its recommendations," it said.

It is certainly unusual for Fifa's sponsors to break ranks. Adidas have been a sponsor since 1970, after all. But there are echoes of the Salt Lake City winter Olympics scandal here, given it was only when the major sponsors began to turn that the full extent of the corruption was revealed.

While Fifa earned around 800 million ($1.5 million) last year alone through the sale of broadcasting rights and sponsorship, Sony, adidas and Visa are among the six sponsors who collectively paid more than 100 million in 2013.

At this stage the airline Emirates, South Korean car giant Hyundai/Kia and Coca-Cola remain silent on these allegations of corruption.

But the latest allegations have raised the stakes with claims that bin Hammam, already banned for life by Fifa, brokered meetings between Qatari officials and national governments to discuss bilateral trade deals.

In Qatar, they insist they remain confident they will not be stripped of the 2022 World Cup. The response by the Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy came shortly after Sony spoke out.

A statement from Qatar said: "There is an ongoing investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid process, with which we have fully co-operated. Consistent with Fifa's rules, we have been asked to refrain from commenting on the investigation and will comply with that request. Qatar has won the bid on its merits and we are confident that at the end of the appropriate process, the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar will stand."

- NZ Herald

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