Football's embattled world governing body Fifa was pitched into further chaos last night when its president, Sepp Blatter, was himself accused of corruption by his election opponent, Mohamed bin Hammam, who is already the subject of a Fifa investigation.
Bin Hammam, who will go before the Fifa ethics committee on Sunday, fought back by accusing Blatter of bribing members in the latest twist in a presidential election campaign that is threatening to tear the organisation apart and could have major implications for the governance of football.
In a move designed to have the maximum impact on Blatter, Bin Hammam called for Fifa to include the 75-year-old in its corruption investigations. Bin Hammam, the Qatari president of the Asian football confederation, claimed Blatter "was informed of, but did not oppose, payments allegedly made to members of the Caribbean Football Union".
The explosive allegations made on Wednesday against Bin Hammam and fellow Fifa executive committee (ExCo) member Jack Warner cite the distribution of $40,000 (£24,000) of cash bribes at a meeting of Caribbean Football Union (CFU) members in Warner's native Trinidad on 10 May.
As years of politically expedient allegiances at Fifa seemed to be crumbling, Blatter had earlier in the day sought to distance himself from the corruption charges against Bin Hammam in a rambling diatribe published online.
Blatter, who faces arguably the most critical weekend of his 13-year reign as Fifa president, said that it was wrong to assume that he took a "perverse satisfaction" in the corruption charges against Bin Hammam and Warner. But at no point did he refer by name to either of the two men, who will learn their fate at an ethics committee meeting on Sunday. In what looked like a direct attack on the former Football Association chairman Lord Triesman, who alleged Fifa corruption in evidence to Parliament this month, Blatter attacked "some malicious others who have neither put up nor shut up".
Otherwise Blatter sat firmly on the fence, sympathising with "two men who stood by my side for some two decades" who, he said, had been made to "suffer through public humiliation without having been convicted of any wrongdoing". Yet in trademark style he also praised their accuser Chuck Blazer, another ExCo member, for his "civic courage".
Blatter hinted at his own state of mind by ending his column for the Inside World Football website with a bizarre proverb about Swiss farmers having their cows killed by jealous neighbours. "When another farmer, elsewhere, on an island, say, has no cow but his neighbour does, that farmer will kill the neighbour's cow out of sheer malice," he wrote. "I'd rather be a Swiss farmer, like it or not."
It also emerged yesterday that Bin Hammam had persuaded Warner to organise a special congress of Concacaf, the region representing North and Central America of which Warner is president, ahead of the organisation's official event in Miami on 3 May. Warner told Blazer to ratify the proposal but Blazer blocked it and Bin Hammam did not go to Miami. He cited visa problems, although he is understood to have a diplomatic passport.
The CFU meeting which Bin Hammam and Warner attended went ahead on 10 May. One attendee contacted yesterday claimed that she did not see evidence of bribes being handed out. Franka Pickering, the president of the British Virgin Islands football association, said: "We discussed why he [Bin Hammam] was running [for president] and that was about it. Us small islands are just a drop in the bucket."
However, Blazer has alleged that bundles of cash were handed out at the meeting and is understood to have compiled a dossier of evidence with his lawyer John Collins that includes sworn affidavits and photographs. New evidence of alleged corruption is emerging all the time, most recently an email from Warner to Triesman which was leaked to the BBC.
In the email sent to Triesman in February last year, Warner asked the English FA to donate $1.6m (£980,000) to Haiti so the country could buy the licence to broadcast that summer's World Cup on public screens. Fifa has since confirmed that no licence existed and nowhere in the world would a public viewing licence have cost so much, let alone Haiti.
Bin Hammam and Warner will go before three members of the ethics committee, one of whom is Namibian Petrus Damaseb on Sunday, who will decide their fate and announce the verdict at a press conference in Zurich on Sunday night. The FA's inquiry – led by QC James Dingemans – into Triesman's allegations of Fifa corruption in the 2018 World Cup bidding process will publish its findings today.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter yesterday matched Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson in bizarrely using a cow metaphor to make his point.
Writing in his internet column, Blatter said: "When a Swiss farmer's neighbour has a cow while he has none, the less fortunate farmer will work twice as hard so that one day he can buy a cow as well. When another farmer, elsewhere, on an island, say, has no cow but his neighbour does, that farmer will kill the neighbour's cow out of sheer malice. I'd rather be a Swiss farmer, like it or not."
Blatter's remarks come months after Ferguson likened the situation over Wayne Rooney's threat to leave to a "cow in a field".
"Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it's a better cow than the one you've got in the field," Ferguson said in October.
"It's a fact, and it never really works out that way. It's probably the same cow and it's not as good as your own cow. Some players like to think there's a better world somewhere else. It never really works."
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