Fifa in fury at official's England ticket scam

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The Independent Football

Fifa's embarrassment could not have been much greater as the first major scandal to hit the 2006 World Cup intensified yesterday.

After spending weeks preaching the gospel of transparency and fair play on and off the pitch - even setting up a new independent ethics committee - world football's governing body has seen one of its leading administrators caught selling England tickets at three times their face value.

Ismail Bhamjee, a 62-year-old member of Fifa's executive committee, was immediately relieved of his World Cup duties after he admitted selling 12 category one tickets for England's match with Trinidad & Tobago in Nuremberg last week.

The tickets had a face value of £70; Bhamjee sold them for £210 each.

The Botswanan official, who has been ordered by the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, to leave Germany, is paid £54,000 as a member of the executive committee and was receiving$500 (£270) a day in expenses while at the tournament as a senior Fifa delegate. He now faces becoming the first man to resign from his post in Fifa's 102-year history.

"It is deeply embarrassing when a high-ranking official is involved in something like this. It puts Fifa in a very bad light," said the governing body's director of communications, Markus Siegler.

Blatter, whose organisation has waged a relentless campaign to curb black market activity in Germany, is reportedly so angry at the harm Bhamjee has done to Fifa's image that he may force him to resign from the executive committee before his term of office expires in January.

According to The Mail on Sunday, which first reported Bhamjee's actions to Fifa, he met a group of England fans in an Indian restaurant in Frankfurt. After he told them he was with Fifa, one of the fans inquired if he could get tickets for the Trinidad & Tobago match.

The fans are understood to have then contacted the newspaper, which sent a reporter to purchase the tickets from Bhamjee's hotel.

Bhamjee, who has signed an official Fifa statement admitting his culpability and apologised profusely, is quoted in The Mail on Sunday as saying that he was only trying to help ticketless fans and that he would donate double the amount of money to charity in recompense for his actions.

Bhamjee is unlikely, however, to find his Fifa superiors in such a charitable mood in return.