Football's governing body, Fifa, has opened an investigation into allegations that two of its executives effectively agreed to sell their crucial votes that could determine where the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will be staged.
Undercover reporters from The Sunday Times filmed Amos Adamu, a Fifa executive committee (ExCo) member from Nigeria, suggesting that an $800,000 (£500,000) payment to build four artificial football pitches, paid directly to him, could swing his vote.
Another ExCo member, Reynald Temarii, a Fifa vice-president from Tahiti and the head of the Oceania regional confederation, intimated that his vote – or one of his preferences – might be influenced in exchange for £1.5m in funding for a football academy in Auckland, New Zealand.
Mr Adamu and Mr Temarii are among 24 ExCo members scheduled to take part in a secret vote on 2 December to determine which nations will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments. Giving or receiving money for votes is strictly prohibited under Fifa bidding rules, as are any deals that might be interpreted as the procurement of votes.
Nobody linked in any way to England's bid to host the 2018 tournament has been implicated in any untoward behaviour. It is bidding against Russia, and against joint bids from Portugal and Spain, and the Netherlands and Belgium. There are five nations bidding for 2022: Australia, Japan, South Korea, the US and Qatar.
Sources close to Fifa's hierarchy have suggested that the vote scheduled for 2 December to decide the host nations may now be delayed. It is understood that other accusations about alleged malpractices within the bidding process could surface. But one senior ExCo member, America's Chuck Blazer, said he could see no reason to delay the vote. "The Ethics Committee will address these issues directly and it should not take them very long to ascertain all the facts," he said.
Fifa said in a statement: "Fifa has already requested to receive all of the information and documents related to this matter, and is waiting to receive this material. In any case, Fifa will immediately analyse the material available and only once this analysis has concluded will Fifa be able to decide on any potential next steps."
The Sunday Times reporters were posing as lobbyists working for American business interests, pretending they wanted to influence the voting in the US bid's favour. The real US bid team had no involvement at all in the undercover exercise, the point of which was to investigate long-established rumours that the bidding process was potentially corruptible.
Sunil Gulati, chairman of the USA Bid Committee, said: "The Sunday Times report makes it clear, but it bears emphasis and repeating, that the USA Bid Committee had zero involvement with any aspect of the reporting that resulted in this story."
Both Mr Adamu and Mr Temarii were unavailable for comment last night. The Oceania Football Confederation said it was "aware of the story" and was "looking into the matter".Reuse content