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May 30, 2011

Blatter denies FIFA is in crisis

FIFA's chiefs have moved on to the defensive as they seek to firefight the growing scandal that is engulfing football's governing body, with president Sepp Blatter stating that business would continue as usual in front of an eventful press conference.

• Pictorial evidence of 'bribe money'
Valcke: 2022 was bought
Bin Hammam to appeal
Banned duo attack FIFA
Blatter escapes as duo suspended
Bin Hammam withdraws from election
Senator urges red card for FIFA

After the suspension of Executive Committee members Jack Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam on Sunday, a series of revelations have further damaged FIFA. Both are accused of being part of a bribery scandal ahead of the election to be FIFA president and Bin Hammam has now stepped down as a candidate, leaving Sepp Blatter, exonerated during the same inquiry, unopposed to take over for a fourth term. The 'election', now a one-horse race, will take place on Wednesday.

Blatter's news conference, carried out in a halting and rather defensive fashion, did not address the issues surrounding the Warner/Bin Hammam issue, and he instead chose to respond to the claims made by former English FA chief Lord Triesman and the Sunday Times, saying that there was a lack of evidence to support them and that no further evidence had been sent in by "whistleblowers".

"Crisis? What is a crisis?," said a dismissive Blatter, who said he still planned to stand for election and played a straight bat to a series of questions on the various scandals.

"I regret what has happened," he said. "In the days and weeks, great damage to the image of FIFA. There is disappointment for the football fans. I am speaking to the football fans.

"The ethics committee have returned their decision. I have no right to comment on it. But there have been one or two points of which I want to inform you. The EXCO was very pleased to receive the report of the FA regarding the allegations made by Lord David Triesman against four FIFA committee members.

"We were happy that we can confirm that there are no elements that would even prompt any proceedings, but for the sake of transparency, but we have agreed that a comprehensive summary of these would be published. The summary can be read on FIFA.com.

"Furthermore we were happy also that we haven't received any evidence from the Sunday Times or from any announced whistle blower with regards allegations against two other EXCO members. Therefore the same - what shall we do? Nothing. The World Cup 2022 is not touched, nor is the World Cup 2018.

Warner in particular has not taken the accusations lying down and has cast doubt on both general secretary Jerome Valcke and Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup by releasing an email from Valcke was suggesting the Emirate "bought" themselves to a successful hosting.

Valcke, after admitting the email was genuine, insisted he was referring to Qatar using their "financial strength" to legitimately lobby for votes.

In a statement, Valcke stated: "Mr Warner has published an email which I sent to him. I'd like to clarify that I may use in an email - a 'lighter' way of expression by nature - a much less formal tone than in any form of correspondence.

"Having said that, when I refer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in that email, what I wanted to say is that the winning bid used their financial strength to lobby for support.

"They were a candidate with a very important budget and have used it to heavily promote their bid all around the world in a very efficient manner.

"I have at no time made, or was intending to make, any reference to any purchase of votes or similar unethical behaviour. I would also like to clarify that there is, as I said yesterday, no investigation open at FIFA regarding the 2022 FIFA World Cup host election."

The Qatari organising committee for 2022 backed up Valcke's defence. "Mr Valcke's statement was clearly taken out of context but again Qatar's name has been dragged through the mud for absolutely no reason," it read. "We would like to reaffirm we won the World Cup bid with the best campaign and without breaching the rules."

Meanwhile, Warner issued a statement welcoming the fact that FIFA had cleared him of claims by Lord Triesman that he had asked for cash or favours in return for supporting England's 2018 World Cup bid.

The statement said: "Today, I regained some hope in the power of truth and transparency. The report of the independent investigator on the allegations of Lord Triesman has proven once again that whenever the truth is told, people will always be able to have their names exonerated.

"It must have pained Mr Blatter and Mr Valcke to read this report. But the fact which cannot be changed is as Valcke declared 'all four are completely clean'.

"It is because of this complete cleanness why Sir Dave Richards, who is no friend of mine, can say truthfully that he has never heard me ask for money or ask for funds to be channelled through me."

Two of FIFA'S major sponsors have expressed their concern about the on-going claims and counter claims. Coca-Cola and adidas are united in a belief that the bickering has to stop.

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