Nicolas Leoz leaves FIFA executive committee
FIFA executive committee member Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay
resigned Tuesday, citing health reasons, just days before rulings
are expected to be announced in a World Cup kickbacks
FIFA said the 84-year-old Leoz confirmed his departure by
letter, and that he would also step down as president of CONMEBOL,
the South American football confederation. He will also leave his
largely ceremonial position chairing FIFA’s 2014 World Cup
”FIFA has taken note of the formal resignation of Nicolas Leoz
… for health and personal reasons,” football’s world governing
body said in a statement.
Leoz, who has undergone several rounds of heart surgery, has
been a member of FIFA’s board since 1998. He has been CONMEBOL
president since 1986.
”This is a strictly personal decision. My mental health is very
good but physically I’m not able to travel five times a year to
Switzerland and two other times to Japan,” Leoz said. ”I also
don’t have the needed energy to stay as head of the 2014 World Cup
organizing committee. I will not be able to travel to 10 cities (in
Brazil) to approve stadiums. But I will continue to support FIFA
Leoz, who noted he was ”very tired” after traveling to Panama
last week for the CONCACAF congress, said CONMEBOL officials will
meet next week in Paraguay to pick his successor from South America
”It’s time to give way to younger officials,” he said.
The Paraguayan lawyer leaves FIFA in the same week that its
ethics judge is expected to announce decisions stemming from an
investigation into a longstanding financial scandal.
Leoz was identified during a Swiss criminal trial in 2008 as
having received payments from FIFA’s former marketing partner ISL.
The agency collapsed into bankruptcy in 2001 with debts of around
$300 million. The resulting prosecution of agency executives
revealed the widespread practice of buying influence from sports
Five years ago, Leoz was named in court papers for receiving
$130,000 from ISL. British broadcaster BBC later reported that Leoz
took payments totaling $730,000.
Last year, FIFA finally published a Swiss prosecutor’s report
which linked President Sepp Blatter’s predecessor, Joao Havelange,
and Ricardo Teixeira, then head of the Brazilian 2014 World Cup
organizing committee, to improper payments from ISL totaling $22
Havelange remains FIFA’s honorary president, though his former
son-in-law Teixeira resigned from football citing health problems
before Switzerland’s supreme court ruled the report should no
longer be kept secret.
FIFA never opened proceedings against Leoz. He can still face
FIFA sanctions after it closed a loophole in its code of ethics
last year which previously allowed football officials to evade
disciplinary action if they resigned from their positions.
Leoz joins his former longstanding FIFA board colleagues
Teixeira, Jack Warner of Trinidad and Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar
in walking away from football while facing corruption
All have left since Blatter was re-elected president of FIFA in
2011 promising to repair its reputation after a series of scandals
and allegations involving bribery, vote-buying and favor-seeking by
members of its high command.
Leoz’s departure could help Blatter in his efforts to convince
skeptics that FIFA is modernizing.
Critics have long characterized some high-ranking FIFA officials
as an old boys’ network with a sense of entitlement to perks and
privileges, and that allegations against some had not been
Associated Press writer Pedro Servin contributed to this report
from Asuncion, Paraguay.