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Volume 6 No. 216

Leagues and Governing Bodies

A long-awaited report said that FIFA President Sepp Blatter "has been cleared of misconduct" in his handling of a multimillion-dollar bribery scandal despite being "clumsy," according to Ashling O'Connor of the LONDON TIMES. Although the report clears Blatter, the findings "have prompted fresh calls for his resignation." MP Damian Collins, who has campaigned for FIFA reform, called on the president to stand down over “an attempted cover-up.” Collins: "Sepp Blatter should himself resign for his failure to expose the wrongdoing sooner, and to take action earlier against those who had done wrong." Former FIFA President João Havelange, who ruled from '74 to '98, "resigned as honorary president of world football’s governing body on April 18." His resignation, however, was not made public until Tuesday "along with the findings" of a FIFA-appointed committee investigating allegations of multimillion-dollar bribes received by its senior members during the '90s. The committee, chaired by German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, concluded that Havelange, who is 96 and in poor health, his former son-in-law, Ricardo Teixeira, who quit last year as Brazilian football president, and Nicolas Leoz, who last week quit as the South America Football Confederation president, were paid “not inconsiderable amounts” in bribes from ISL, the Swiss sports marketing company that went bankrupt in '01, exposing "irregular payments through a network of off-shore trusts" (LONDON TIMES, 4/30).

CASE CLOSED: REUTERS' Brian Homewood wrote the report said any action against Havelange and Leoz would be "superfluous" following their resignations. The report said, "The ISL [Int'l Sports and Leisure] case is concluded for the ethics committee," adding that FIFA only introduced an ethics code in '04. It continued, "No further proceedings related to the ISL matter are warranted against any other football official." Eckert also referred to a payment of 1.5 million Swiss francs ($1.6M) which was sent to FIFA in '97 and "earmarked for Havelange." When it was brought to Blatter's attention, "he ordered it to be returned to ISL" (REUTERS, 4/30). BLOOMBERG's Christopher Elser wrote Eckert said Blatter's conduct couldn't be classified "in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules," as there was no evidence that he received money from ISL (BLOOMBERG, 4/30). The BBC reported FIFA granted ISL "exclusive rights to market World Cup tournaments to some of the world's biggest brands." ISL "also received millions more" from negotiating TV broadcast rights. The company "collapsed with huge debts" in '01 and its arrangement with FIFA "was subsequently investigated by Swiss authorities." FIFA was eventually forced by the Swiss supreme court to release documents relating to the case "after it repeatedly attempted to block the release of the confidential papers" (BBC, 4/30).

BLATTER RESPONDS: In London, Ben Rumsby reported Blatter himself "was typically triumphalist." Blatter: "I note in particular that, in his conclusions, Chairman Eckert states that ‘the ISL case is concluded for the Ethics Committee’ and that ‘no further proceedings related to the ISL matter are warranted against any other football official.'" He added, "I also note with satisfaction that this report confirms that ‘President Blatter’s conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules'" (TELEGRAPH, 4/30).

CRITICS ABOUND: The PA's Martyn Zeigler reported Eckert "does question Blatter's role in the scandal." Eckert: "It must be questioned, however, whether President Blatter knew or should have known over the years before the bankruptcy of ISL that ISL had made payments (bribes) to other FIFA officials" (PA, 4/30). In London, Roger Blitz wrote the report "failed to satisfy" FIFA’s critics. U.K. Parliament Opposition Spokesperson on Sport Clive Efford said: “We can only conclude from the fact that no one in FIFA questioned why a major TV contractor paid £1M ($1.5M) to President Havelange that it was commonplace for backhanders to be accepted by high ranking officials within the organization.” Efford added FIFA had "acted like a clearing bank" for the payment "and simply passed the money on with no questions asked" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 4/30).

The Asian Football Confederation presidential election Thursday arrives with little "hope for reform at the crisis-hit body" due to question marks over the candidates and only a two-year term for the winner, according to Patrick Johnston of REUTERS. UAE FA President Yousuf Al Serkal, Saudi Arabian Hafez Al Medlej, Thailand's Worawi Makudi and Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain "are running to succeed disgraced" former President Mohamed Bin Hammam. Bin Hammam is "banned from football for life by FIFA for bribery" in '11. Should Al Serkal or Al Medlej win the vote in Kuala Lumpur, their attempts to bring about reform "could be hampered by their lack of a voice at FIFA." Worawi is the only candidate who already holds a FIFA executive committee seat. Sheikh Salman "looks to be favourite to claim a winning majority" from the 47 member associations, and "has talked about bringing greater transparency to the AFC." However, his critics "have raised questions about the crackdown of a pro-democracy uprising at home" in '11 (REUTERS, 4/30).

FINISHING THE JOB: XINHUA reported the new AFC president will complete Bin Hammam's remaining two-year tenure before facing another election in '15, "casting doubt on whether he would have enough time to complete any major reforms." Football blogger and Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of Int'l Studies at Nanyang Technological University Senior Fellow James M. Dorsey said that "most presidential candidates do not have a real reform agenda." Dorsey: "Al-Serkal is the only candidate that has laid out a program that addresses the fundamental problems wracking the AFC, but he lacks a track record of pushing for reform" (XINHUA, 4/30).

ALL IN THE FAMILY: The GULF NEWS reported Kuwait FA Chair Sheikh Tilal Al Fahad confirmed that "he will be running for the AFC presidency" in '15. His announcement "explains the support" extended by his brother, Asia Olympic Council President Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah to Sheikh Salman in "what would be the interim period." Sheikh Fahad and his brother "are well aware that Al Serkal is their most serious opponent." The "smear campaign they started to damage the reputation and chances of Al Serkal included sending letters" to FIFA and the AFC members claiming that it was Al Serkal "who was behind the reports of bribes they paid" in the '09 election (GULF NEWS, 4/30).

Suffolk Constabulary "is investigating whether to bring criminal charges against the racehorse trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni," according to Matt Hunter of the EAST ANGLIAN DAILY TIMES. A police spokesperson said, "Suffolk Constabulary is working with the British Horseracing Authority to establish if any criminal offences have been committed." The spokesperson said that they "would not be making any further comment about the investigation at this stage" (EAST ANGLIAN DAILY TIMES, 4/29)‎.

LAYING IT OUT: In London, Andy Stephens reported the deceit and audacity of Al Zarooni "was laid bare" Tuesday when the BHA "published its full reasons for suspending him." Al Zarooni brought the drugs into the U.K. "on a flight from Dubai and made up unmarked syringes containing 4ml of stanasol, the anabolic steroid that promotes muscle growth." On March 14, the 37-year-old trainer "casually gave them to a veterinary assistant, named for the first time as Sharif Mahboob, from the window of his car and instructed him to give the drugs to five horses he listed on a piece of paper." After his crime was detected, Al Zarooni claimed that "he did not know he was breaking the rules but, tellingly, he made no reference to the steroids being administered in medication books." Sometime between March 14 and April 7, he "also administered nitrotain, which contains ethylestranol, to seven other horses" (LONDON TIMES, 4/30).

A conversation inside a corporate suite at a National Rugby League game "is being blamed for the Gai Waterhouse-John Singleton feud that has rocked Sydney's racing establishment," according to Rothfield & Thomas of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. It was a comment from rugby league immortal Andrew Johns during last Friday night's Souths-Manly blockbuster "that has destroyed one of racing's tightest friendships." Johns was among almost 200 guests, including his close friend, brothel Owner Eddie Hayson, in the Heritage Lounge at Brookvale Oval. The comment "was relayed to former jockey Allan Robinson, who phoned Singleton late on Saturday morning to allege all was not right with his champion mare More Joyous, which was trained by Waterhouse" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 5/1). In Sydney, Michael Lynch reported  Waterhouse watchers "had a field day" at Warrnambool on Tuesday as the "first lady of racing" entertained a capacity crowd of the town's women at what was billed as a 'ladies-only lunch' at the racetrack." Every remark she uttered at the lunch "was analysed for its significance in the midst of the More Joyous brouhaha." Waterhouse said, "Put your head down, keep your bum up, keep your mouth shut and that's the key to success" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 5/1).

The Int'l Cycling Union (UCI) "will not work with the French anti-doping agency to test riders at this year's Tour de France" (AP, 4/29). ... Princess Haya Bint Al Hussain, wife of Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, "will chair the new board of the Dubai Equestrian Club." Saeed Bin Humaid Al Tayer "will serve as deputy chairman while other board members include Malih Lahej Al Basti, and Mohammad Ahmad Bin Abdul Aziz Al Shehi" (GULF NEWS, 4/30). ... UEFA "has moved to head off the possibility of excessive lobbying during the bidding process for Euro 2020 by banning national associations from offering incentives or cash gifts to UEFA members" (SOCCEREX, 4/30). ... FA Chair David Bernstein "will be part of FIFA's new anti-racism taskforce." Established by football's governing body, the group "will help combat racism and discrimination in the game." English referee Howard Webb and AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng "will also be members." The taskforce will meet for the first time on May 6 and present its initial findings at FIFA's annual congress on May 30-31 (BBC, 4/30).