FIFA has temporarily suspended two executive committee members from Nigeria and Oceania who are accused of selling their votes for the 2018 World Cup hosting decision.
REUTERS - Two members of FIFA's executive committee linked to claims of vote-selling for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup decision were provisionally suspended on Wednesday as President Sepp Blatter lamented a "sad day for football".
Soccer's governing body are also probing allegations that unnamed bidding countries had entered into agreements which would breach the rules and code of ethics, Claudio Sulser, head of the ethics committee, told reporters.
FIFA, however, said they did not expect the Dec. 2 decision on the two tournaments' hosts to be postponed.
"It's a sad day for football," said FIFA president Sepp Blatter at the end of the conference.
"In football, you have the good players and bad players and as president of FIFA it is my duty to protect the reputation of football and FIFA from manipulation or bad behaviour."
The allegations, the result of a Sunday Times investigation by reporters posing as lobbyists for an American consortium, have cast a huge shadow over the race to host the 2018 and 2022 where only the 24 executive committee members vote.
England and Russia are bidding to host the 2018 World Cup along with joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands while Japan, South Korea, Qatar, United States and Australia are candidates for 2022.
Sulser said said that Oceania Football Confederation president Reynald Tamarii, a former professional player for French club Nantes, and Nigeria's Amos Adamu had been banned from any football-related activity for 30 days over claims they offered to sell their votes.
Sulser also announced that four more officials -- all former executive committee members -- had been suspended "in relation to an alleged breach of the FIFA statutes, the FIFA code of ethics and the FIFA disciplinary code linked to the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups".
They were named as Slim Aloulou (Tunisia), Amadou Diakite (Mali), Ahongalu Fusimalohi (Tonga) and Ismael Bhamjee (Botswana). In 2006, Bhamjee was sent home from the World Cup in Germany and subsequently quit the executive committee for selling match tickets at three times their face value.
A final decision on the matter would be taken in mid-November, said Sulser, a lawyer and former Switzerland international.
"We need to guarantee that the individuals affected can defend themselves," he said "We don't want a public trial of any sort, we want to respect their rights.
"But we have a zero tolerance policy ... to protect the ethics of FIFA, its image and football in general. We need to respect all footballers, pros, amateurs and those who play merely for fun.
"The evidence that has been presented to us today has led us to take this provisional measure, as we considered that the conditions were definitely met to take this decision and we deem that it is crucial to protect the integrity of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process."
General-secretary Jerome Valcke denied that the bidding process, which has seen explicit electoral campaigning and bid leaders openly approaching executive committee members, was flawed.
"The process for 2018 and 2022 has been perfectly well managed and organised," he said.
"There was no discussion about the postponement of the decision on Dec. 2 and there is no question about the process of awarding these World Cups together on Dec 2."
But he added: "It's not a nice thing to go through. After South Africa everyone was talking about football and what football can achieve, all the social aspects and everything we are doing around the world to develop football."
A clearly shaken Blatter admitted FIFA needed to restore its credibility when he entered at the end to make his address.
"As president of FIFA, I appeal and expect all members of the FIFA family to behave in an honest and respectful manner," he said.
"Let us do our job and clarify the situation and bring back credibility to FIFA. We will try to do it but with more than one billion people involved in football, you can't expect that everyone behaves the way we would like.
"I was surprised that you (reporters) asked if FIFA was corrupt," he added. "FIFA is a well recognised organisation and institution.
"The good thing is that we have reacted immediately."
Date created : 2010-10-20