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Sunday, July 24, 2011

British MP calls for enquiry into Bin Hammam’s role in Qatar World Cup bid

Mohamed Bin Hammam has vowed to fight his banning with an appeal in the Court of Arbitration of Sport, (File photo)
Mohamed Bin Hammam has vowed to fight his banning with an appeal in the Court of Arbitration of Sport, (File photo)
Conservative British member of parliament Damian Collins, in a first indication that the banning of Mohamed Bin Hammam is unlikely to end world soccer body FIFA’s worst corruption scandal as well as controversy surrounding the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, has called for an investigation into the role of the former FIFA vice president’s role in the Gulf state’s successful bid.

“This is a day of shame for football’s governing body. These are such serious charges from the FIFA ethics committee that there should now be a fuller inquiry into Bin Hammam’s other recent work within FIFA, and in particular his role on the FIFA executive committee during the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups,” Mr. Collins said in a statement on his Website.
Mr. Bin Hammam, a 62-year old Qatari national, was banned for from all involvement in soccer on Saturday by FIFA’s ethics committee for having bribed executives of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) to secure support for his campaign earlier this year for the FIFA presidency.

Mr. Bin Hammam, who has denied all wrongdoing, withdrew his candidacy in late May hours before he was suspended pending the outcome of an investigation. That investigation constituted the basis for Saturday’s banning.

Mr. Collin’s call is based on the fact that Mr. Bin Hammam, who also was until his banning head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), is believed to have been closely associated with Qatar’s bid for the World Cup even if the reasons for his banning are unrelated to the bid.

Both FIFA and Qatar had hoped that the banning of Mr. Bin Hammam would allow them to put months of allegations and scandal behind them.

Mr. Bin Hammam has vowed to fight his banning with an appeal in the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) and possibly in other jurisdictions in what is likely to be protracted proceedings that will keep the worst crisis in FIFA’s 107-year history alive.

Eugene Gulland, Mr. Bin Hammam’s lawyer, charged that the banning of his client was based on “circumstantial evidence which our case has clearly demonstrated was bogus.” In a Tweet, Mr. Bin Hammam said that he “reject(s) the findings (of the committee) and maintain my innocence and will continue to fight through the legal routes available to me.”

The AFC, which has stood aloof during the proceedings against Mr. Bin Hammam, stressed in a statement his “inalienable right to lodge an appeal against the decision.”

The AFC executive committee, which meets in Kuala Lumpur this week, will have to set in motion the process to elect Mr. Bin Hammam’s successor.

Mr. Bin Hammam is the highest FIFA official to have ever been banned and one of 10 members of the organization’s 24 executive committee members to have been tainted by charges of corruption or improper behaviour in the past nine months.

Of the ten, three, including Mr. Bin Hammam have been penalized, one has been exonerated and allegations against two others have in the first instance proven to be false.

Qatar had hoped that an admission by a whistle blower that she had fabricated charges that executive committee members Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma had been paid $1.5 million each by the Gulf state to ensure their support for the Gulf state’s bid would end persistent reports that it had acted improperly in its well-funded campaign. The false allegations were the basis for a submission by British newspaper The Sunday Times to a British parliamentary enquiry into soccer governance.

The call by Mr. Collins, who works closely with Change FIFA, a campaign that aims to force FIFA to reform, is likely to keep alive calls for radical change in the way the soccer body does business as well as for an enquiry into the Qatar bid. A British parliamentary committee as well as the German soccer association have both called in recent months for an investigation into Qatar’s bid.

Critics are likely to chalk up Mr. Collins’ call to sour grapes over the fact that England lost to Russia its bid to host the 2018 World Cup. The awarding of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments are linked because they were awarded on the same day as well as due to the fact that Qatar and Spain and Portugal, which bid jointly for 2018, had agreed to swap votes in a violation of bid rules that FIFA has refrained from acting on.

Mr. Collins said that Mr. Bin Hammam’s vow to appeal his banning to the Court of Arbitration of Sport indicated “the need for investigations into alleged wrongdoing within FIFA to be carried out by a completely independent body that cannot be seen to be part of the internal politics of FIFA.”

FIFA ethics committee deputy chairman Petrus Damaseb touted the sentencing of Mr. Bin Hammam as “in keeping with the declared policy of the committee to show zero tolerance of unethical behaviour,” but declined to disclose the reasoning for the verdict. Mr. Damaseb told a news conference that he could not discuss the evidence on which the committee’s decision was based.

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