Former Fifa president hopeful alleges vote-buying

 

The man beaten by Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency in 1998 believes his election hopes may have been damaged by vote-buying.

Lennart Johansson, the 82-year-old who was then UEFA president, lost out to Blatter by 111 votes to 80.

Blatter himself last year accepted there had been vote-buying at his first victorious FIFA election in 1998.

Johansson said FIFA's public reputation was now tarnished by corruption claims and called for an independent investigation into the allegations - including former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner's claim that Blatter allowed him to pay just one dollar for World Cup TV rights.

Johansson told Bloomberg: "I think I'm entitled to talk about it because I was the second candidate at the election in 1998.

"I lost and now I hear that they bought some votes.

"For people on the streets FIFA is corruption, is bribery, things like that and they hear it year after year and nothing happens. I can't see how things like that can change."

Johansson said FIFA executive committee members had turned a blind eye to the allegations.

He added: "The question is why they stay under these circumstances. They don't like to talk about it. And the worst thing is it creates a lot of speculation about why they behave like this."

Blatter has always vehemently rejected any suggestions that he was linked with vote-buying in 1998, but earlier last year he appeared to suggest that somebody else was involved.

Author David Yallop, in his 1999 book 'How They Stole The Game', alleged that a Middle Eastern fixer working for Blatter procured votes by giving African delegates at the Meridien Montparnasse hotel in Paris envelopes each containing 50,000 US dollars, supposedly as development money.

Blatter told a news conference last March, after being asked about FIFA's reputation being damaged by allegations of corruption: "It's not easy to change somewhere where people started by saying you have bought votes in your first election.

"Who has bought votes in the first election? Go down to Paris in June 8 1998 in the Meridien Montparnasse.

"I was not there because they expelled me from FIFA at the time, and then you will see who has bought votes.

"That was somebody...it doesn't matter now. You have just asked me as president and I have just explained before."

Blatter's reference to being "expelled from FIFA" was in relation to his having had to step down as general secretary in order to stand for president.

Johansson said, in relation's to Warner's claims about buying TV rights for one dollar: "We need to investigate Warner's comments for the reputation of football not to help Mr Warner.

"Mr Warner made us aware of really what's happened by telling us about it. Then if he's telling a lie that should be proved. We will see."

FIFA last week said Warner's statement contained "several inaccuracies and falsehoods" and denied he was given TV rights in return for supporting Blatter.

Warner resigned as FIFA vice-president in June shortly after he and Blatter's presidential challenger Mohamed Bin Hammam were charged with bribery. Bin Hammam was banned for life in July but has lodged an appeal.

Both Warner and Bin Hammam were key supporters of Blatter in the 1998 and 2002 elections.

PA

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