Sports : World Cup bidding lurches into final week

The contest to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups lurched into its final week on Monday with more allegations of corruption against high-ranking Fifa officials and continuing uncertainty over the number of voters.

As delegates gathered for three days of hectic lobbying ahead of Thursday's vote, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) accused three members of Fifa's executive committee of taking bribes in the past and a fourth of planning the corrupt sale of 2010 World Cup tickets.

England, Russia, Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands are bidding for 2018 with United States, Japan, Australia, South Korea and Qatar the candidates for 2022.

Fifa's executive committee, which holds exclusive voting rights in the contest, has already lost two of its 24 members after they were suspended earlier this month for offering to sell their votes to undercover newspaper reporters from Britain's Sunday Times newspaper.

Tahiti's Reynald Temarii and Nigeria's Amos Adamu were banned for one and three years respectively, the former leaving the Oceania region unrepresented on the executive committee.

However, Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) acting president David Chung of Papua-New Guinea was flying to Switzerland in the hope of being allowed to vote on Thursday.

Fifa would not comment directly on the situation but issued a statement quoting its statues which indicated that Chung could vote only if Temarii dropped an appeal against his suspension and resigned.

Fifa's statues read: "Any member of the Executive Committee who no longer exercises his official function shall be immediately replaced by the confederations or associations which appointed him for the remaining period of office."

England's bid chief executive Andy Anson said he understood there would be 23 voters on Thursday, not 22.

"We are anticipating it will be 23 voters although the final decision hasn't been made," he told a media briefing. "I think there are some formalities to go through and we are waiting to hear officially that this is the case."

TELEVISION PROGRAMME

Anson added that England's hopes would probably be adversely affected by the airing of the BBC Panorama television programme on Monday which included more allegations against Fifa.

"Of course I'm disappointed with the timing and it's certainly not going to win any votes," he said.

Panorama, which also accused another Fifa executive of planning the corrupt sale of 2010 World Cup tickets, offered what it said was new evidence about the ruling body's appointment of International Sports and Leisure (ISL) as its marketing arm. ISL went bankrupt in 2001.

The programme said members Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil, hosts of the next World Cup, Confederation of African Football (CAF) chief Issa Hayatou and South American (Conmebol) head Nicolas Leoz took bribes from ISL to win the lucrative contract.

All have denied wrongdoing. Neither they nor Fifa were available on Monday for comment on the latest allegations based on what the BBC said was a confidential ISL document which detailed 175 secret payments between 1989 and 1999.

A fourth member of Fifa's executive committee, Jack Warner of Trinidad who is a vice-president, had attempted to break Fifa rules over the sale of 2010 World Cup tickets "but the deal subsequently fell through", according to the Panorama programme.

England's bid committee said the content of the Panorama programme was irrelevant to this week's decision.

"We stand by our previous position that the BBC's Panorama did nothing more than rake over a series of historical allegations none of which are relevant to the current bidding process," a bid spokesperson said. "It should be seen as an embarrassment to the BBC.

"The 2018 team are entirely focused on winning the bid for England."

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International urged Fifa to postpone the votes and allow an outside investigation.

"The awarding of the 2018 and 2022 football World Cup...must be postponed until all light has been shed on the allegations published in the press," the body said.

"These have cast such discredit on Fifa's processes that a decision under these circumstances would only fan the controversy." Source SUPERSPORT

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