Friday the Swiss Attorney General searched the offices of Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA, and interrogated him about what are potential charges against him. The Swiss authorities said Blatter is being investigated on suspicion of “criminal mismanagement.” In specific, the investigation centers on the suspected signing of a contract with CONCACAF’s Jack Warner, in 2005, which is said to have been “unfavorable to FIFA” and the making of a “disloyal payment” to UEFA President Michel Platini in 2011.
FIFA’s website had little to day in their statement regarding this new development.
The contract was between FIFA and the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) for the Caribbean television broadcasting rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Mr. Warner, who was the head of the CFU at the time, was allegedly allowed to obtain the rights on behalf of the CFU, for about $600,000. Mr. Warner, then transferred the rights to his own company and resold them for between $15 million and $20 million. Mr. Warner has said that the deal with FIFA was a straightforward one of television rights granted in exchange for “securing votes for Mr. Blatter’s campaigns for the FIFA presidency.”
FIFA has countered that despite Blatter’s previous reelections with substantial CONCACAF support, there was no such agreement. Mr. Jeffrey Webb, the currently indicted CONCACAF president, the man who eventually succeeded Jack Warner, was once thought to be a rising star and Blatter favorite, a man capable of claiming the FIFA presidency himself. Blatter had also counted heavily on Webb’s support in the last FIFA presidential election.
The 2011 payments to Mr. Platini were allegedly for approximately $2 million. The payments were allegedly for work Platini performed on behalf of FIFA from January 1999 to June 2002. Mr. Platini issued a statement saying: “The payment relates to work which I carried out under a contract with FIFA.” Neither party has explained why there was a nine year lapse between when the work was allegedly performed and when the payments were clearly made.
FIFA has not disqualified Mr. Platini from running for the organization’s presidency in the upcoming elections to replace Mr. Blatter. In fact the UEFA president is the front runner in that race to the top.
The current investigation did not include any comments from Swiss authorities about their June assertions that they were investigating 53 cases of potential money laundering related to the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Russia and Qatar, the winners of those two respective bids, have denied any misconduct.
FIFA has announced that the Qatar World Cup will be played in the November-December time frame, beginning November 21st and concluding December 18th. The 28-day tourney, to be played in that Asian Football Confederation (AFC) country, is four days shorter than previous ones in order to minimize the disruption to the UEFA club schedule. The final is to be played on the date of Qatar’s National Day, its independence day.
Coincidentally, of FIFA’s 209 voting national associations CONCACAF’s 35, UEFA’s 53, and AFC’s 46, would alone add up to just about the two-thirds majority needed to elect a new FIFA president.