Football: FA cleared by Fifa over cash for votes case

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The Independent Online
AN INVESTIGATION by Fifa, football's world governing body, has cleared the English and Welsh Football Associations of any misconduct in the affair that led to the resignations of the English FA's chief executive, Graham Kelly, and chairman, Keith Wiseman.

It was alleged that the two men had been attempting to secure support from the Welsh FA for Wiseman's bid to be elected to the Fifa executive as the home nations' representative, in order to boost England's 2006 World Cup bid. Fifa executives spoke to representatives from both the FA and the Welsh FA at the end of January but have now ruled that the case is closed. A Fifa spokesman said: "We have found that there were no incorrect or improper actions that would warrant further investigation."

The FA, which has endured a chaotic past two months in which its chairman and chief executive, as well as the England team's head coach, Glenn Hoddle, have been forced to resign, welcomed the statement as an endorsement of its prompt actions. Kelly was the first to leave his post last December after the FA's executive committee ruled that he had acted without having first consulted either the committee or the FA's full council. Wiseman attempted to cling on to power until a meeting of the full council in early January but was met with widespread opposition and he too resigned.

Wiseman thanked the FA for having made clear that "no aspersions had been cast on my integrity or honesty" but was condemned for what his interim successor, Geoff Thompson, called an "error of judgment". Thompson, the former vice-chairman, and David Davies, the director of public affairs, have been installed in the temporary roles of chairman and executive director respectively, and have already begun building bridges with Uefa, the European governing body, and Fifa.

The FA's spokesman, Steve Double, said: "We gave a full report on the circumstances of the departure of Graham Kelly and Keith Wiseman when David Davies and Geoff Thompson went to Switzerland to meet Fifa president Sepp Blatter two weeks ago... It was made clear to us that Fifa fully accepted our version of events and why the actions had to be taken. We are pleased that they have publicly confirmed that today."

Although the Fifa statement was not being seen at Lancaster Gate as an endorsement of his actions, Kelly also welcomed it as "good news". Kelly told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I didn't know there was an investigation going on but it's nice to be cleared by it. The critical issue was that I couldn't persuade the [FA] executive committee that what I was doing was legitimate and in the best interests of English football. We could have carried on arguing but it would have been a very messy dispute, and I don't know whether I would have won irrespective of today's findings by Fifa."

Asked whether the FA felt the two men were right to resign, Double said: "We take the view that they were. They acted without proper authority."

In the meantime the Welsh FA is still expecting a cheque for pounds 900,000, less than the original pounds 3.2m agreed between the two parties, although it remains unclear how and when this money will be paid. According to Double, the money will now come from the Football Trust rather than the FA.

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