Fifa's Jim Boyce to hand back £16k watch he did not know he had
Former Irish Football Association president Jim Boyce has revealed his shock at the controversy surrounding watches presented to Fifa committee members during this summer's World Cup.
Boyce, who is vice-president of Fifa, was unaware that that he was even given a watch while in Brazil until he found it in a bag in the garage of his Co Antrim home last week.
Parmigiani watches, valued at £16,400, were distributed in gift bags from the Brazilian federation to the 28 Fifa executive committee members and representatives from all 32 countries at the tournament.
Football's world governing body has said that accepting such valuable gifts contravened its rules and has demanded that all the watches be returned by October 24. Former Cliftonville chairman Boyce will now return the watch when he heads to Zurich on Fifa business next week.
"I received a call from a Sunday newspaper journalist asking if I had received a Hublot watch at the World Cup in Brazil," said Boyce.
"I knew nothing about a watch and I assured the lady that I didn't get a watch while I was in Brazil.
"A couple of days later I received a second call asking again about the watch. I said I don't tell lies, I have no reason to tell lies and I didn't get a Hublot watch in Brazil.
"In between times I contacted Fifa to tell them about the call and also to confirm I didn't get a watch.
"People ask me for things when they are holding charity events and that is what I do with the gifts that I receive. Last week I went to a bag in my garage and discovered inside a small brown pouch was this watch.
"It has a Brazilian crest on it, a plastic strap and other straps – a yellow one, a green one and a white one – but I didn't know it was in the bag, and it isn't a Hublot watch.
"I immediately rang the journalist to say that I had found the watch and informed Fifa.
"I told them what had previously happened and told them that I was happy to return the watch.
"I have received an email from Fifa to say that all of the watches have to be returned and I have no problem with that – I don't want the watch.
"How this can be construed as anything untoward is beyond me. I am also told they are worth $20,000, but it looks like something you would buy for a child."
After previous corruption allegations concerning cash bungs and expensive gifts in exchange for votes, Fifa's ethics committee enforced a ban on gifts of more than 'symbolic or trivial value' being offered or accepted by football officials. A new code of ethics was put in place two years ago as a response to allegations related to the bidding process for the next two World Cups, Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022.