Watchdog criticizes FIFA’s anticorruption fight

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Watchdog criticizes FIFA’s anticorruption fight

GENEVA - FIFA has failed to send a clear message that it will fight wrongdoing in football, according to a global corruption watchdog.

As football’s world governing body prepares to investigate World Cup vote-trading allegations on Wednesday, Transparency International lawyer Sylvia Schenk told The Associated Press that scandals surrounding how FIFA chooses the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts have created “a lot of doubt” about its integrity.

“Nobody has the impression that something like a zero tolerance approach [exists] in FIFA,” Schenk said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “You have a culture of giving presents and gifts to everybody, all the time, at any occasion.”

FIFA executive committee members Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii will appear before the governing body’s ethics panel, which is investigating the British Sunday Times’ claims that they offered to sell their votes in the secret ballot scheduled Dec. 2. Both face suspension from duty after being filmed by undercover reporters who posed as lobbyists.

The panel has asked for the newspaper’s evidence and will also study allegations that at least two unnamed bidding countries have colluded on trading votes, in breach of FIFA rules designed for the contest to host world sport’s biggest event.

Bidding nations Russia, the Netherlands - which wants to co-host with Belgium - and South Korea told The AP on Tuesday they are not involved in the ethics inquiry. Europe will stage the 2018 World Cup, with England and Spain-Portugal completing the four-bid field. The 2022 hosting race has the United States, Australia, Japan and Qatar joining the Koreans.

A damning verdict by the independent ethics panel - which could deliver provisional sanctions Wednesday then complete a fuller probe - would likely wreck a candidate’s campaign so close to polling day.

Schenk is a former Olympic runner and one-time president of Germany’s cycling federation who helps advise governments and businesses on working more openly. She believes FIFA created a problem by failing to explain exactly how a World Cup bid could show it was best.

“You need very clear criteria why the event will be awarded and to whom,” she said, echoing recent criticism by one FIFA executive, Asian confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar, that marketing style seemed more important than a bid’s substance.

Schenk has earned an invitation to speak at a FIFA-backed conference in Zurich next March on how to prevent matchfixing.

She believes the ruling culture at FIFA - “talking to politicians, being important, getting presents” - can only change with a directive from the top that corruption will be punished immediately.

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