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TMCNet:  Football: Blatter faces calls to step down at Fifa: President admits he knew predecessor pocketed 'commissions' for awarding World Cup TV contracts

[July 13, 2012]

Football: Blatter faces calls to step down at Fifa: President admits he knew predecessor pocketed 'commissions' for awarding World Cup TV contracts

(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sepp Blatter faces calls for him to step down as president of Fifa following his admission that he knew his predecessor, Joao Havelange, pocketed "commissions" for awarding Fifa's 2002 and 2006 World Cup TV contracts to the marketing company ISL. In official statements on Fifa's website, Blatter acknowledged that he was "P1," the unnamed Fifa official revealed in a Swiss court document to have known a 1m Swiss francs (pounds 660,000) payment from ISL was for Havelange.

Under Blatter's presidency, Fifa did nothing to sanction Havelange, or his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira, the long-serving executive committee member, who between them were alleged to have received 41m Swiss francs (pounds 27m) from ISL, straightforwardly described as "bribery payments" by a Swiss prosecutor. The document revealed that Fifa made strenuous efforts to have the prosecutions stopped, then did not make public what had happened. That was described as "a cover-up" by Damian Collins, the Conservative MP who has been a consistent critic of Blatter's Fifa during its recent years of scandal.

Sylvia Schenk, senior adviser on sport for the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International, who initially worked with Blatter on proposals for Fifa reform, argued that his position is now untenable. "If the president of Fifa for years did not act on the knowledge that these payments had been made for senior executives' personal gain, and tried to hide it for as long as possible, then it is difficult to trust him as the person to reform Fifa in the future," Schenk said.

Schenk has argued since becoming involved with Fifa that there needs to be a full investigation into allegations of corruption in Fifa's recent past, if the organisation is to have credibility.

That call for a full investigation appeared to be supported by Mark Pieth, the criminology professor at the Basel Institute who has been employed by Blatter to recommend reforms. On Wednesday in Zurich the two committees Pieth has recommended be formed, one to carry out investigations, the other to sit in judgment of alleged misconduct, will appoint chairmen. Pieth sees those as crucial appointments for the chances of there being genuine reforms at Fifa. He explicitly pointed out that the investigative committee has the power to examine allegations from Fifa's past. "It is crucial to this institution, if it is to have a future at all, to be able to deal with the problems of the past," said Pieth. He would not be drawn on whether there should be such an investigation, limiting himself to saying it was a decision for the committee and whoever they appointed as chairman.

Blatter made it clear not only that he has no intention of resigning over his inaction despite knowing Havelange and Teixeira had pocketed commissions, but that he does not consider he has done anything wrong. Confirming that "P1" is him, Blatter said the commissions were not criminal at the time they were paid - between 1992 and 2001. "You can't judge the past on the basis of today's standards," he said. "Otherwise it would end up with moral justice." That, however, contradicted the document itself, in which the prosecutor in the Swiss canton of Zug was pursuing criminal charges of embezzlement against Havelange and Teixeira, alleging they committed criminal breaches of their duties as executives to Fifa, and a charge of disloyal management against Fifa itself.

The prosecutor had formed the view that the commissions from ISL were bribery payments. The prosecutor alleged that Havelange, president of Fifa from 1974 until Blatter, his former general-secretary, succeeded him, and Teixeira, longstanding president of Brazil's football federation, were paid a massive 41m Swiss francs for awarding contracts to ISL.

The prosecution was stopped in May 2010 after protracted efforts by Fifa, under Blatter's presidency, to reach a confidential settlement.

Captions: Sepp Blatter said that he had no intention of resigning: 'You can't judge the past on the basis of today's standards' (c) 2012 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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