U.K. Sports Minister Robertson Warns FIFA Over Corruption Claims

England may be pushed to quit soccer’s governing body FIFA if the organization doesn’t root out corruption, U.K. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said today.

Robertson’s comments come a day after David Triesman, former chairman of the country’s Football Association, said four FIFA executive committee members asked for favors in exchange for votes for England to host the 2018 World Cup.

“There is a desire to try to work and change FIFA from the inside,” Robertson, who was in Zurich when England was voted last of four bidders in December’s World Cup vote, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program. “If FIFA proves unable to do that, then I would say all options are possible.”

FIFA today said it asked England and the Sunday Times to provide reports and evidence to back up the corruption allegations.

Triesman alleged in front of a U.K. parliamentary committee that Jack Warner, a FIFA vice president from Trinidad & Tobago, Brazil’s Ricardo Teixeira, Paraguay’s Nicolas Leoz and Thailand’s Worawi Makudi engaged in “improper and unethical” behavior before Russia was chosen as host of the 2018 tournament. Information supplied by the Sunday Times newspaper to the lawmakers also alleged Qatar paid $1.5 million to African soccer head Issa Hayatou of Cameroon and Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast.

Gulf state Qatar, a surprise choice to stage the 2022 World Cup, “categorically” denied the claims, which it described as baseless. Warner denied them also. The others have yet to respond to requests for comment.

Under Scrutiny

FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he couldn’t vouch for the members that sit alongside him on the executive.

“It is my government, but my government is not designated by the president,” Blatter said at a press conference in Zurich yesterday. “I cannot say that they are all angels or they are all devils.”

FIFA’s probity has been under scrutiny since the collapse into bankruptcy of its marketing rights partner ISL in 2001. Swiss investigators found that some FIFA officials, including executive committee members, had been paid bribes by the company, though Blatter was cleared. Its credibility was hit further last November when two voters were suspended before the World Cup decision following an inquiry into claims they’d offered to sell their votes.

Challenge for Presidency

Blatter said action couldn’t be taken against any officials who took bribes because until 2007 they were not illegal under Swiss law.

“Until that time it has been considered as commissions and not as bribery -- this is what I want to say here,” he said.

The 75-year-old has been with FIFA for 36 years, and led the group since 1998. He’s being challenged for the presidency by Mohamed Bin Hammam, 62, a Qatari who leads soccer in Asia.

The allegations made by Triesman and the Sunday Times mean eight of the 24 members that sat in FIFA’s highest chamber during the bid process have been sanctioned or accused of impropriety.

Robertson said the soccer body needs to follow the example of the International Olympic Committee, which instituted reforms following a voting scandal around the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

“There is nobody currently bidding for the 2018 Winter Olympics who doesn’t believe their system is fair and transparent,” he said. “FIFA needs to be in the same position.”

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