World Cup bids investigation must go ahead, say MPs

 

An independent investigation into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups should still be carried out despite a whistle-blower retracting allegations that Qatar paid bribes to Fifa members, a committee of MPs said yesterday.

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee said Fifa's reforms announced last month were "encouraging" but that football's world governing body still needed a full inquiry into allegations of past misconduct.

Committee member Damian Collins also believes there should be a separate investigation into former leading Fifa figure Mohamed Bin Hammam's activities in football after he was banned for life for bribery while running for president of the organisation in May.

Bin Hammam played a key role in Qatar's successful bid for the 2022 World Cup last December, but the bid denies any suggestion of wrongdoing.

The report states: "The committee notes that Fifa has received an apparent retraction of the original allegations related to Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid. While it welcomes the withdrawal of the allegations made by the 'whistle-blower', the committee is still concerned that no apparent effort was made by Fifa to investigate these allegations when they were put to it, and that other allegations – specifically those made by [former England 2018 bid chairman] Lord Triesman in evidence to the committee – remain."

In relation to the Bin Hammam ban, the report adds: "Our concern is that the governance failings revealed by this incident are symptomatic of a wider governance failure within Fifa, and we stand by our recommendation that Fifa commissions a full, independent investigation of the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and for the outcome to be made public."

Collins goes even further and has called for a separate inquiry into Bin Hammam. He said: "There should be an independent investigation into Mohamed Bin Hammam's activities in football. It also seems strange that if you try to run against [Fifa president] Sepp Blatter they throw the book at you, but nothing has happened in relation to the World Cup bid allegations. The reforms all seem to be moving at a very pedestrian pace, and that's why we have called for urgent progress."

Collins believes Fifa should announce that all members must declare all financial interests to make clear possible conflicts of interest.

Fifa's secretary general, Jérôme Valcke, responded to the committee in July, pointing out that the whistle-blower had withdrawn her claims and insisting the organisation would reform.

Valcke's letter stated: "Fifa does not turn a blind eye to criticism against it. However, we do believe that it is too easy to judge in public on allegations that are not supported by evidence. We strongly believe that politicians should act and speak on facts, and not on unsubstantiated headlines."

The committee had also called on the FA to conduct its own review of England's disastrous bid for the 2018 tournament, which secured only two votes, one of which was from its own Fifa member, Geoff Thompson.

The FA chairman, David Bernstein, said in his response to the committee: "While I understand why the committee might reach this position, since the bid decision was made back in December 2010 the FA has felt it to be more productive to focus instead on looking forward. As an organisation we are determined to build strong and lasting relationships within the stakeholders of international football."

Bernstein said bridge-building with Uefa and "positive dialogue" with Fifa had already produced benefits.

He added: "Indeed, in European terms, our enhanced representation on Uefa committees, Uefa's award of the 2013 Uefa Congress and Champions League final to Wembley are testament to this progress."

Meanwhile, Dubai's Emirates airline has not yet begun discussions on extending its multimillion dollar Fifa sponsorship beyond 2014, it said yesterday, after a report quoted an airline official as saying that the Gulf Arab carrier would not renew the contract.

Australian media group B&T media quoted Boutros Boutros, the divisional senior vice-president of corporate communications for the airline, as saying that it had felt "overlooked" during the voting scandal that rocked football's governing body earlier this year.

"We are seriously thinking about not renewing our partnership with Fifa beyond 2014," Boutros said at the Emirates-sponsored Melbourne Cup fixture on Tuesday.

In May, Boutros said the airline had been disappointed by the cash-for-votes scandal that led to several officials being suspended from the game.

Emirates has commissioned research into its association with Fifa to see whether there has been any long-term damage to its brand, according to the report.

"Emirates has not yet commenced discussions with Fifa on the extension of our partnership agreement beyond 2014. Discussions will begin in due course," the airline said yesterday, without giving any more details.

The Gulf carrier sealed one of its biggest ever sponsorship deals worth $195m (£122m) with Fifa in 2006 to become its official sponsor until 2014.

Blatter said in June that the organisation had been in contact with two of its main sponsors over the corruption allegations but there had been no threats to pull out.

PA

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