FIFA president Sepp Blatter promised an "in-depth investigation" into allegations by a British newspaper that two FIFA executive committee members offered to sell their votes in World Cup bidding, calling the claims "very negative."
Blatter wrote in an open letter to his colleagues on FIFA’s executive committee that the Sunday Times’ allegation is a "very unpleasant situation" for football’s governing body.
"The information in the article has created a very negative impact on FIFA and on the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups," Blatter said.
Blatter said the investigation will be conducted by FIFA’s independent ethics panel working together with secretary general Jerome Valcke.
He also asked executive colleagues not to comment publicly on the subject, but made no mention if the 24-man committee’s Dec. 2 vote to choose the 2018 and ’22 hosts could be delayed for FIFA to conduct its probe.
Chuck Blazer, the American member of FIFA’s executive committee, said he did not think the Dec. 2 vote would need to be postponed.
"We should deal with it within the timeframe established," Blazer said. "We want to keep the issues separate and it’s important we conclude the World Cup decision. There is no reason why we shouldn’t. The investigation can be done right away."
The Sunday Times filmed Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Oceania Football Confederation president Reynald Temarii of Tahiti asking for money to fund projects.
The reporters were posing as lobbyists for a consortium of American companies who wanted to help bring the World Cup back to the United States by winning December’s vote. No money changed hands.
"The Sunday Times report today makes it clear, but it bears emphasis and repeating, that the USA Bid Committee had zero involvement with any aspect of the reporting that resulted in this story," U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati, chairman of the USA Bid Committee, said in a statement to The Associated Press. "This is a matter that is totally under the governance of FIFA, and therefore we will have no further comment."
Adamu and Temarii, who could not be reached for comment, are on the committee which votes on the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Zurich in December’s secret vote.
"FIFA and the FIFA ethics committee have closely monitored the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups and will continue to do so," world football’s governing body said in a statement. "FIFA has already requested to receive all of the information and documents related to this matter, and is awaiting to receive this material.
"In any case, FIFA will immediately analyze the material available and only once this analysis has concluded will FIFA be able to decide on any potential next steps."
Bidding alongside the U.S. for 2022 are Australia, Japan, South Korea and Qatar. There are four European entrants in the 2018 race: England and Russia as well as joint bids by Belgium-Holland and Spain-Portugal.
Adamu was filmed telling reporters in London that he wanted $800,000 to build four artificial football pitches in his home country of Nigeria.
Adamu told the reporters he wanted the money paid to him personally, saying: "Certainly if you are to invest that, that means you also want the vote."
When the deal was sealed in Cairo last month, the U.S. was still bidding for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, but it announced on Friday that it was withdrawing from the contest for the earlier edition.
Adamu had offered a "guarantee" that he would vote for the Americans in the 2018 vote, but said they would be his second preference in ’22.
"I’ve already given my word to some other bid," he was heard saying on The Sunday Times website.
The Sunday Times, which published videos on its subscription-based website, says Temarii wanted NZ$3 million ($2.3 million) to fund a football academy in Auckland. He also said backers of two other unnamed bidding countries had offered the FIFA vice president $10 million to $12 million to his Oceania confederation.
The Oceania Football Confederation issued a brief statement from its Auckland offices on Sunday.
"OFC is aware of the story that appeared in The Sunday Times in England. As such, OFC is currently looking into the matter," it said.
The confederation’s website includes a profile of Temarii which notes he "has facilitated ground-breaking agreements with a number of key partners including the European Union and Australian Government that have seen millions of dollars injected into grassroots initiatives over the past few years."
The Sunday Times said it was advised about how much they should offer as bribes by two other FIFA officials, who formerly represented the Confederation of African Football on the executive committee.
Referees’ committee member Amadou Diakite from Mali said they should offer about $1 million.
Slim Aloulou, the Tunisian chairman of FIFA’s disputes resolution committee, said they should not pay "peanuts," suggesting bribing members 1 million pounds each.