Ex-official says FIFA traded TV rights for support
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) — Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner said Thursday he was awarded World Cup television rights for as little as $1 in return for helping Sepp Blatter win elections for the presidency of world soccer's ruling body.
Warner, who resigned from FIFA in June amid bribery allegations, said in a statement that the organization awarded him the 1998 World Cup rights in his native Trinidad & Tobago for $1 after he helped Blatter win a "brutal" campaign to become FIFA president.
A former president of regional body CONCACAF and the Caribbean Football Union, Warner also said he was sold the rights for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups after helping Blatter get re-elected in 2002, and later bought the 2010 and 2014 rights.
The accusations are the latest twist to the corruption accusations and infighting that have dogged FIFA throughout 2011.
Asked about Warner's claims, FIFA said in a statement that "we are currently looking into the matter."
Once a Blatter ally, Warner switched his allegiance to Qatar's Mohammed bin Hammam during FIFA's presidential election this year. After being suspended by FIFA in May, Warner had threatened to unleash a "tsunami" of corruption allegations against the organization.
On Thursday, Warner said in his statement that he and bin Hammam, a former Asian Football Confederation president, had helped Blatter in 2002 by playing "extremely critical roles in his re-election as well as in preventing several members of the then Executive Committee from instituting criminal charges against him." Warner did not give details of the possible charges.
TV rights for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups were "again sold to me personally however using the CFU as the vehicle," Warner said, adding that they were subsequently resold.
He said the profits, as with previous rights earnings, were used to fund soccer activities in the Caribbean.
Warner's decision to quit FIFA meant that he avoided an investigation of his alleged role in arranging payments for Caribbean voters during bin Hammam's presidential campaign — a bribery scandal that subsequently led to the Qatari challenger's life ban from soccer. Bin Hammam withdrew his bid after the scandal emerged in May.
In his statement Thursday, Warner claimed FIFA had vainly made him other lucrative offers if he would support Blatter, rather than bin Hammam, in the election.
"In 2011, in exchange for my support (and by extension the support of the CFU and the CONCACAF) in the FIFA presidential election, the FIFA again offered me the sale of the World Cup Rights for 2018 and 2022 as a 'gift' at a nominal fee," Warner said.
FIFA also agreed to give CONCACAF a combined total of $1 million for two soccer development projects, Warner claimed.
"Notwithstanding the inducements offered, I ... refused to endorse Sepp Blatter for the 2011 FIFA Presidential election ..." the statement added.
According to Warner, a 28-year veteran of FIFA's executive committee, there are more revelations to come.
He said that he would make further disclosures next week, including "why I could not support Sepp Blatter's re-election," and "why Caribbean football will never be for sale."
The bribery scandal involving Warner and bin Hammam was sparked when whistle-blowers from four Caribbean countries reported that cash was offered during bin Hammam's May 10 visit to Trinidad ahead of the FIFA vote for the presidency.
A video of Warner urging Caribbean soccer leaders to accept their cash gifts was leaked and published on the website of Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Bin Hammam is appealing against his FIFA ban and is awaiting a date for a hearing from the Court of Arbitration for Sport.