FIFA committee backs Blatter

Date Published: 
Jamaica Gleaner


ZURICH, Switzerland (AP):

A FIFA emergency committee yesterday announced it has backed a decision by the organisation's president, Sepp Blatter, to suspend an audit of the world soccer body's finances.

FIFA said "the majority of members" of the committee had given written approval to Blatter's decision two weeks ago to freeze an internal audit until FIFA's May 3 executive committee meeting.

But FIFA's Scottish vice president, David Will, who is leading the investigation, said he planned to continue his inquiries despite the delay.

FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said he did not have details of who among the emergency committee's seven members had agreed with Blatter. The committee, of which Blatter is chairman, is made up of the heads of soccer's regional associations and other officials. It includes the FIFA president's fiercest critics, UEFA chief Lennart Johansson, and Issa Hayatou, the head of African soccer and Blatter's only challenger in the May 29 election for the FIFA presidency.

Blatter supporter Jack Warner, head of the North and Central American and Caribbean soccer federation, also is a member. The other members are Moonjoon Chung of Korea, Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay, Argentina's Julio Grondona and Adrian Wickham of the Solomon Islands.

Blatter, who has been president of the world soccer body since 1998 and before that was its long-standing general secretary, has been struggling to contain a new round of accusations in an increasingly ugly power struggle.

He has been accused by his critics of trying to cover up FIFA's financial losses after the US$300 million collapse of ISL/ISMM, the company that held the marketing rights for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.

Johansson claims that even before the collapse of ISL there was serious overspending in 2000 - perhaps to the tune of 900 million Swiss francs (US$545 million). But executive committee members remained in the dark about the exact state of FIFA finances, he said.

Blatter was forced by the executive committee to accept an audit last month. On April 11 he suspended the investigation, citing a "breach of confidentiality" by an unnamed member.

The independent audit committee is headed by Will, with Oceania Football Confederation president Basil Scarsella his deputy. The remaining members are Chung, Slim Aloulou of Tunisia, Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil and Chuck Blazer of the United States.

In a statement yesterday, Will said he could "find nothing in the statutes allowing the president to suspend a committee set up by the executive committee of FIFA".

"I met with the president on April 22 and he was not able to present to me one single example of information which had been given exclusively to the independent audit committee having been leaked."

The investigation team "is currently being prevented from continuing its task," Will said, adding that he would "proceed with my own inquiries as a vice president of FIFA and member of the executive committee".

Last week, FIFA general-secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen - until recently seen as a Blatter loyalist - said he was unhappy with Blatter's management style and also was being attacked by Warner and Blazer to stop him revealing "delicate information" at the audit. Zen-Ruffinen has started legal action against them.