Bin Hammam quits FIFA presidential raceGENEVA - Mohamed bin Hammam withdrew Sunday from FIFA’s presidential election, clearing the path for Sepp Blatter to continue his reign as head of football’s world governing body as it deals with its gravest corruption crisis.
The Qatari challenger to 13-year incumbent Blatter announced his withdrawal before Sunday’s FIFA ethics hearing, in which he will answer accusations that he had arranged bribes for up to 25 presidential voters on a campaign visit to the Caribbean.
Blatter and FIFA Vice-President Jack Warner also stand accused of corruption in Sunday’s ethics probe.
The ethics committee had the power to remove Blatter from standing in Wednesday’s presidential election but Bin Hammam’s withdrawal should clear the way for the 75-year-old Swiss to be re-elected unopposed, as he was in 2007.
“Recent events have left me hurt and disappointed on a professional and personal level,” Bin Hammam wrote on his Web site. “It saddens me that standing up for the causes that I believed in has come at a great price - the degradation of FIFA’s reputation. This is not what I had in mind for FIFA and this is unacceptable.
“I cannot allow the name that I loved to be dragged more and more in the mud because of competition between two individuals. The game itself and the people who love it around the world must come first. It is for this reason that I announce my withdrawal from the presidential election.”
Bin Hammam decided to run for the presidency after playing a key role in Qatar winning the rights to host the 2022 World Cup.
“I pray that my withdrawal will not be tied to the investigation held by the FIFA ethics committee as I will appear before the ethics committee to clear my name from the baseless allegations that have been made against me,” Bin Hammam said.
At the end of an astonishing week at FIFA’s palatial slate and glass headquarters in Zurich, the ethics committee is scheduled to deliver initial findings at 6 p.m. local time Sunday .
The ethics probe opens days of scheduled meetings involving FIFA’s 208 national members before their annual Congress on Wednesday.
The ethics panel will examine evidence provided by Chuck Blazer, Warner’s American No. 2 at the CONCACAF regional body.
Blazer delivered a file that sparked an explosive round of allegations, denials and accusations of conspiracy among his FIFA executive committee colleagues in the final days of campaigning.
Blatter, Bin Hammam and Warner passed up invitations to attend the year’s most eagerly anticipated match on Saturday, the Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United in London, to focus on their legal defence.
Qatari challenger Bin Hammam and Warner, a 28-year veteran at FIFA’s high table, are accused of arranging bribes for up to 25 presidential voters on a campaign visit.
Caribbean Football Union members were allegedly offered $40,000 each at a May 9-10 conference in Trinidad, where Warner is a government minister.
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