British MPs accuse FIFA and Blatter of cover-up

LONDON, (Reuters) – A British Government inquiry into  corruption allegations surrounding World Cup bids has accused  FIFA of trying to brush aside the evidence and has questioned  president Sepp Blatter’s commitment to reforming the  organisation.
The 31-page report, issued by a House of Commons Select  Committee, has called for FIFA to “commission a full, urgent and  independent investigation” into the allegations surrounding the  bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
It also says it finds FIFA’s decision to drop investigations  into alleged wrongdoing by Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago, who  resigned from FIFA’s executive committee last month after 28  years rather than face corruption charges, as “extraordinary”.
Among a number of conclusions, the report states: “We were  appalled by the allegations of corruption made against members  of the FIFA Executive Committee during the course of our  inquiry.
“Although they have been challenged in other evidence, they  are sufficiently serious for FIFA to commission a full, urgent  and independent investigation and for the outcome to be made  public.
“Instead, FIFA has given every impression of wishing to  sweep all allegations of misconduct under the carpet and  dismissing anyone bringing allegations to them with an approach  bordering on contempt.”
The report urges FIFA to review its bidding process for  future World Cups and to reform itself as the International  Olympic Committee (IOC) did following allegations of bribery and  corruption into Salt Lake City’s bid to host the 2002 Winter  Olympic Games.
However, the report said Blatter’s record did not inspire  confidence that this would happen.
“We look to him now to fulfil the undertakings he gave at  the time of his re-election to the presidency,” it said. “We  urge the FA, and other national associations to ensure he is  held to account for them.”
Committee member Damian Collins MP told Reuters in a  telephone interview prior to the report’s publication: “We are  very concerned at the contempt FIFA showed when the evidence was  presented to them. It is absolutely shocking at how little  scrutiny there is of how FIFA executive members go about their  business.
“FIFA may govern football, but it does not own football, and  the way it operates would not be acceptable in any other  organisation. FIFA needs to be far more transparent.”

Initially, the inquiry, comprising MPs on the Culture, Media  and Sport Committee, was set up to examine how the game is run  in England and to examine the failure of England’s bid to stage  the 2018 World Cup which was awarded to Russia last December. On  the same day, FIFA awarded the 2022 finals to Qatar.
Subsequently in May, David Triesman, the former chairman of  the English FA, gave evidence to the committee alleging that  four members of the FIFA executive committee had demanded  favours in return for voting for England.
Allegations made by the Sunday Times newspaper were also  raised during the inquiry. Collins added that the way FIFA had  dismissed those allegations was “hugely disappointing”.
As well as being critical of FIFA, the report is also  critical of Triesman, whose allegations in May against FIFA  executive committee members Warner, Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay,  Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil and Worawi Makudi of Thailand made  headlines across the world and set alarm bells ringing.
Triesman resigned as FA chairman in May last year after  being taped making what proved to be unfounded allegations  against 2018 bid rivals Russia and Spain.
He told the Committee he did not make his allegations  earlier for fear of harming England’s bid, but following his  assertions to the Committee regarding the four FIFA members, the  English FA commissioned a report into his allegations, which  could not be backed up.
The committee added: “It is frustrating and disappointing  that Lord Triesman did not see fit to raise his  allegations…when he first became aware of them. We welcome the  undertaking he gave us that he would now raise his allegations  with FIFA so that it could conduct an investigation.”
The Committee has also recommended that the English FA  conducts a review into the failures of the World Cup bid, which  cost the FA and local councils more than 17 million pounds ($27  million) and ended up securing just two votes, one from  England’s own representatives, when the vote was taken by the  executive committee, in Zurich on Dec. 2 last year.

Under current FIFA rules, after Russia hosts the 2018 World  Cup, it will not return to Europe until 2030.
The report concludes that English influence in FIFA and in  European’s soccer’s governing body UEFA is poor due to a number  of historic and current perceptions including an arrogant  approach to other countries.
With no bids possible for a World Cup for at least another  decade, the committee recommends: “The FA can perhaps afford to  play a long game, and to consolidate its position as a leading  internal advocate of FIFA reform.”
The FA gave a statement in response to the report.
“We have always acknowledged the level of disappointment  amongst the public and everyone who was involved in the  unsuccessful England 2018 Bid, particularly when we were very  confident England’s technical bid was the strongest following  feedback from FIFA’s inspection group,” it said.
“Our focus is now on ensuring that the FA and all of English  football work towards building stronger and more enduring  international relationships.
“We can confirm that the FA chairman David Bernstein has  began a process of evaluating our current representation on FIFA  and UEFA committees, while determining how we can best  strengthen our international relationships, both formally and  informally.”  ($1 = 0.626 British Pounds)

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