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'No options ruled out' over Fifa

Published 01/06/2015

Under-fire Fifa president Sepp Blatter was re-elected on Friday
Under-fire Fifa president Sepp Blatter was re-elected on Friday

The Government and the Football Association (FA) have agreed not to rule out any options in the battle against alleged corruption in Fifa, the Culture Secretary has said.

John Whittingdale said he had spoken to FA chairman Greg Dyke and they had agreed to keep all options on the table in an effort to end the "culture of kickbacks and corruption that risk ruining international football for a generation".

Amid calls for a boycott of the World Cup, he assured MPs the Government would do anything in its power to bring about change in world football's governing body.

His comments came after under-fire Fifa president Sepp Blatter was re-elected on Friday, despite the arrests of football officials on suspicion of decades of bribe taking.

Mr Whittingdale said Britain will offer full co-operation with investigations by United States and Swiss authorities and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) will pursue any evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the UK.

Pressure on Mr Blatter intensified after a second FA director resigned from a Fifa post and a long-serving executive committee member warned he too was considering his future.

Heather Rabbatts, one of the FA's two independent directors, resigned from Fifa's anti-discrimination task force.

She said it was "unacceptable" so little had been done to reform Fifa and the latest corruption crisis was "disastrous" for its reputation.

Her action followed FA vice-chairman David Gill rejecting his place on the Fifa executive committee in protest at Mr Blatter's victory.

Fifa's medical chief Michel D'Hooghe is expected to make a decision about his future following a meeting of European football's governing body Uefa in Berlin ahead of the Champions League final.

Mr Whittingdale, answering an urgent question in the Commons, said: "Fifa needs to change and to change now, and I can assure the House that the Government will do all in its power to help bring change about.

"I have just spoken to Football Association chairman Greg Dyke and assured him that we stand behind the English FA's efforts to end the culture of kickbacks and corruption that risk ruining international football for a generation.

"I agreed with him that no options should be ruled out at this stage."

Momentum is building against Mr Blatter and sponsors should "think long and hard" about whether they want to be associated with "discredited and disgraced" Fifa, Mr Whittingdale said, reiterating his call for Mr Blatter to stand down for the good of the game.

Shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant said Mr Blatter survived due to his "Mafioso cronyism" but is a "tainted leader of a corrupt organisation".

He said: "By clinging on, he is merely dragging Fifa further and further into the mud."

He asked if the Government agreed that Uefa and the other major football associations should consider setting up alternative competitions to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Mr Whittingdale said: " The one thing which is absolutely clear is that if there were any serious attempt to organise an alternative to the existing World Cup, that could only be done if there was a strong agreement across the European nations and preferably with other football associations from around the world."

Uefa president Michel Platini is not expected to go down the road of a World Cup boycott - for a start more than a quarter of the 53 associations did not back Mr Blatter's rival Prince Ali of Jordan - but there could be actions taken over positions held by Uefa members.

In her resignation letter to secretary general Jerome Valcke, Ms Rabbatts said: "I am withdrawing with immediate effect from the Fifa task force against racism and discrimination.

"My willingness to play a part in the development of policies in this area is outweighed by the disastrous effect on Fifa's reputation of recent events.

"Like many in the game I find it unacceptable that so little has been done to reform Fifa and it is clear from the re-election of president Blatter that the challenges facing Fifa and the ongoing damage to the reputation of football's world governing body are bound to continue to overshadow and undermine the credibility of any work in the anti-discrimination arena and beyond."

Mr D'Hooghe told Belgian television talk show de Zevende Dag (Seventh Day): "I thought the tornado that struck Fifa would change some people's mind. That maybe happened to a minor extent, but clearly insufficient to create a new majority.

"I have been shouldering the medical responsibility at Fifa for 27 years, but cannot reconcile myself with the institution now I understand that there are a lot of corruption cases.

"My conclusion is clear: I no longer want to participate in this situation. It's high time that changes are made. If this atmosphere persists at Fifa, then I don't have a place in it. I'm going to wait (to see) what will happen in the next few days and what else will be revealed."

Three banks named in a US indictment relating to the scandal are reviewing payments set out in the document.

Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered were allegedly used to transfer cash as part of the conspiracy.

Standard Chartered said last week it was aware two payments it had cleared were mentioned in the indictment and it was looking into them. Barclays and HSBC have not commented.

But it emerged today Barclays was understood to be reviewing specific transactions while the HSBC payments were believed to be the sort of transactions that were routinely looked into.

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