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FIFA plunges into new corruption scandal

Germany FA president

German football association (DFB) President Wolfgang Niersbach was considered a potential dark horse for one of world soccer’s top administrative posts but allegations of a slush fund to help the country win hosting rights for the 2006 World Cup have cast a shadow over his credentials.

BERLIN, October 17 – Already reeling from the accusations surrounding the attribution of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup competitions, FIFA has been plunged into a new scandal relating to the 2006 edition.

Although vehemently denied by the German Football Federation (DFB), corruption claims made by Spiegel weekly newspaper on Friday would have felt like yet another body blow in the annals of world football’s governing body.

On top of the Swiss investigation into the attribution of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar, and the surrounding bribery scandal that has seen 14 people arrested by American and Swiss authorities, now Spiegel have claimed that votes for the 2006 edition were bought.

It’s another mess that FIFA can ill afford with its president Sepp Blatter having already been suspended for 90 days due to suspicions a two million Swiss franc ($2 million, 1.8 million euros) payment he made to UEFA counterpart Michel Platini was not above board.

Platini has also been suspended for the same period by FIFA’s independent ethics committee, as well as the organisation’s secretary general Jerome Valcke.

Seven former FIFA officials were arrested by Swiss authorities in May as the United States attempts to have them extradited to face charges of accepting bribes.

Spiegel claimed on Friday that the DFB had borrowed 10.3 million Swiss francs in 2000 from the now-deceased former CEO of German sportswear giant Adidas, Robert Louis-Dreyfus in order to buy the votes of four Asian members of FIFA’s 24-strong executive committee.

Germany won the bid to stage the 2006 World Cup ahead of South Africa by 12 votes to 11, with one abstention.

Spiegel claimed the DFB then transferred 6.7 million euros (the equivalent exchange rate for the borrowed Swiss francs at the time) to a FIFA account in 2005 to reimburse Louis-Dreyfus.

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The DFB preempted Spiegel’s claims by issuing its own statement on Friday admitting they had made that last payment to FIFA, but said their internal investigation had found that “the payment was not connected with the awarding” of the 2006 World Cup.

German media have jumped on the story, however, with popular daily Bild running the title: “Was the 2006 World Cup bought?”.

Such a possibility would have a detrimental affect on Germany, the current world champions, for whom the 2006 tournament was the biggest event in the country since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

But for FIFA, it is yet another blow to the already waning confidence in an organisation that runs the world’s most popular sport.

The 2010 World Cup has not been spared suspicion due to a $10 million payment made by South Africa to then FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, who is currently fighting extradition from his Trindad and Tobago homeland to the US to answer corruption charges.

Both FIFA and South Africa deny any wrongdoing.

American authorities are also examining previous World Cup events after another former FIFA official, Chuck Blazer — who, like Warner, has been banned for life from football-related activities — turned whistle-blower and admitted to accepting bribes from Morocco and South Africa over the bidding process for the 1998 World Cup, eventually won by France.

The succession of scandals prompted FIFA in June to decide to suspend the nomination process for the 2026 World Cup.

And until the spate of criminal investigations come to a head, FIFA will remain in turmoil.

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For now, each new and damaging revelation or accusation is increasingly met with diminishing surprise.

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