England

FIFA chief blasts British lawmakers

Jerome Valcke FIFA general secretary
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke has hit back at criticism from British lawmakers.
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GENEVA

FIFA has told British lawmakers to get their facts straight before criticizing football's world governing body for alleged corruption.

In a letter published Tuesday on FIFA's website, FIFA's top administrator Jerome Valcke warned John Whittingdale, who heads parliament's sport committee, that politicians ''should act and speak on facts, and not on unsubstantiated headlines.''

Whittingdale chairs a parliamentary committee which investigated England's failed 2018 World Cup bid and also published allegations of corruption surrounding Qatar's 2022 bid.

Valcke reproached Whittingdale for not updating the committee's report after a whistleblower withdrew bribery allegations leveled at Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid.

The Qatar whistleblower alleged to journalists from The Sunday Times of London that two FIFA executive committee members were paid $1.5 million to vote for Qatar, which was awarded the 2022 World Cup in December.

The claims were never published in the newspaper but were made public using parliamentary privilege by Whittingdale's committee.

Former bid media officer Phaedra Almajid last month claimed that she was the whistleblower, but said she had made up the allegations.

Secretary general Valcke claims that the committee should have published an update to its report from July 5 to reflect the new information.

''It is one thing for the media to not be interested in stories which kill previous headlines by so-called investigative journalists, but it is another entirely for your committee to neglect this turnaround,'' Valcke said.

Whittingdale, though, told The Associated Press that his committee only publishes evidence submitted to it, while the retraction was made in a press release.

''We published the evidence we were given - we didn't say if it was true or untrue, we just said it needs to be properly investigated,'' Whittingdale said in a telephone interview. ''It seems a reasonably perfect thing to do. Had we not done that I don't think the whistleblower would ever have made her retraction.

''That's due to our report that particular allegation has been disproved.''

In the letter to Whittingdale, Valcke assured him that FIFA would be responding after a year of corruption and bribery claims.

''This will be done,'' Valcke said. ''FIFA will do its homework and address the issues of the past.''

The Culture, Media and Sport panel concluded that ''nothing has changed'' since Sepp Blatter promised on June 1 to reform FIFA on being re-elected as president.

''FIFA does not turn a blind eye to criticism against it,'' Valcke wrote. ''However, we do believe that it is too easy to judge in public on allegations that are not supported by evidence.''

Whittingdale said the committee will respond to Valcke, having been delayed by its investigation into alleged phone hacking by the now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

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AP Sports Writer Rob Harris in London contributed to this report.


 

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