With few days until the presidential election, FIFA are approaching crossroads in their 112-year history and the favourite to replace Sepp Blatter as the most powerful man in world football faces fresh and troubling allegations.
FIFA officials privately concede they fear the FBI could raid Zurich again and haul away yet more of their clan suspected of criminal activity. An FBI source has told The Mail on Sunday that the Feds are ‘cognisant’ that a FIFA Congress with 209 associations in town would provide an opportunity for action.
Sheik Salman of Bahrain, odds-on for now to replace Blatter, will not be among those arrested, if indeed anyone is, but his campaign has been beset by allegations of, at best, indifference to human rights abuses during the Arab Spring of 2011.
There is mounting speculation on the campaign trail that Salman is coming under pressure to withdraw, with key sports powerbrokers in Asia afraid of reputational damage to the region — the 2022 Qatar World Cup — if he wins. But Salman’s lawyers say he has ‘no intention of withdrawing’ and a spokesman insists: ‘He’ll be there.’
The Mail on Sunday has seen hitherto secret paperwork outlining allegations that bribes were offered to assist a previous Sheik Salman election campaign in 2009, when he was fighting Qatar’s Mohamed Bin Hammam for a seat on FIFA’s executive committee.
The claims had some gravitas as they were raised by Les Murray, an Australian broadcast journalist who was a serving member of FIFA’s ethics committee at the time.
Murray wrote to Justice Petrus Damaseb, then chairman of the committee but the initial response from FIFA’s general secretary at the time, Jerome Valcke, was to chastise Murray for his approach. ‘This is an irresponsible behaviour,’ wrote Valcke. ‘Far from the standards that FIFA expects of a committee member.’
After Murray followed up with more details Valcke required — names of accusers, dates and times of conversations with them and details of a nexus of people apparently involved in the scheme — he never heard anything back about the case.