FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke today confirmed he sent an e-mail to another official with soccer’s governing body in which he said Qatar “bought” its surprise selection for the 2022 soccer World Cup.
Vice President Jack Warner revealed Valcke’s e-mail after he and Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Qatari head of soccer in Asia, were suspended by FIFA. Warner and Bin Hammam, who until yesterday was a challenger to Sepp Blatter’s FIFA presidency, are being investigated over claims they offered $40,000 to Caribbean voters to choose Bin Hammam. Valcke later released a statement saying he was implying the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas used its funds to “to heavily promote their bid all around the world in a very efficient manner.”
The e-mail supplied to the media by Warner and typed by Valcke referred to Bin Hammam and Blatter by their initials, MBH and JSB.
“For MBH, I never understood why he was running,” Valcke wrote. “If really he thought he had a chance or just being an extreme way to express how much he does not like anymore JSB. Or he thought you can buy FIFA as they bought the” World Cup.
Valcke, FIFA’s highest non-elected official, had earlier told reporters in Zurich that he sent the message. He was attending a meeting held by the North and Central American soccer body Concacaf, some of whose members are alleged to have accepted money from Bin Hammam.
“I have at no time made, or was intending to make, any reference to any purchase of votes or similar unethical behavior,” Valcke said in the statement. “I would also like to clarify that there is, as I said yesterday, no investigation open at FIFA regarding the 2022 FIFA World Cup host election.”
Valcke said Warner had only published selected parts of the e-mail, and also denied the Concacaf president’s claims that he influenced FIFA’s ethics panel’s decision to suspend him.
“It is fully incorrect -- and quite disappointing -- to say that I have an influence on the FIFA Ethics Committee and its proceedings,” he said. “I have never attended any of the meetings of this committee.”
Qatar’s World Cup bid team, which has already issued one 1,700 word statement denying previous vote-buying allegations, said it would be contacting Valcke about his comments.
“Qatar 2022 categorically deny any wrong doing in connection with their winning bid,” the bid committee said in a statement. “We are urgently seeking clarification from FIFA about the statement from their General Secretary. In the meantime we are taking legal advice to consider our options.”
Bin Hammam said he didn’t know why Valcke made the claims.
“You would have to ask Jerome Valcke what he was thinking. I don’t know why he has said that,” Bin Hammam, 62, told the British Broadcasting Corp. “If I was paying money for Qatar you also have to ask the 13 people who voted for Qatar.”
FIFA had already been trying to fend off allegations of improper conduct by its decision-making body during the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups that ended with sport’s most-watched event being handed to Russia and desert-state Qatar. Nine of the executive’s 24 members have now either faced investigations or have been sanctioned for wrongdoing in the past year.
“FIFA’s reputation is not at the highest, that’s clear, and it’s sad,” Valcke said yesterday. “Definitely there needs to be a change.”