Fifa suspend Jerome Valcke over ticket allegations
Fifa has been thrown into fresh turmoil after secretary general Jerome Valcke, Sepp Blatter's right-hand man, was suspended by the organisation pending an investigation into allegations he was implicated in a World Cup tickets scheme.
Emails and documents seen by Press Association Sport suggest Mr Valcke was aware that a Swiss marketing company was selling off World Cup and Confederation Cup tickets for almost five times their face value.
Fifa said: "Fifa today announced that its secretary general Jerome Valcke has been put on leave and released from his duties effective immediately until further notice.
"Further, Fifa has been made aware of a series of allegations involving the secretary general and has requested a formal investigation by the Fifa Ethics Committee."
The emails and documents show Mr Valcke signed off contracts with Swiss firm JB Sports Marketing AG for category one tickets for a number of matches.
In April 2013, JB's consultant Benny Alon said in an email to Mr Valcke's personal email address that some tickets had been sold for up to five times the face value.
But it was not until months later, in December of that year, that the contract was terminated.
It is understood Mr Valcke strenuously denies asking for or receiving any money for the deal with JB.
It is also understood that Mr Valcke insists Fifa terminated the agreement with JB once they realised Mr Alon was selling tickets for the 2014 World Cup above face value. There is no explanation however at the delay in any action taking place.
Mr Alon has claimed his company sold the tickets on the open market not the black market, with transport to the venue or a pre-match meal being used to justify the extra cost.
That practice however clashed with Fifa's official hospitality partners MATCH and contravened Brazilian law, and Mr Valcke told JB the contract had to be signed with MATCH instead.
An email from Mr Valcke warns that otherwise they may be committing a criminal offence.
Mr Alon also told Press Association Sport he sold tickets to the 2010 World Cup final in Johannesburg - the higher price there being justified by having a golf match included as part of the deal.
Mr Valcke has been Fifa's secretary general, and outgoing president Sepp Blatter's right-hand man, since 2007.
Before that he had a spell at Fifa's marketing director between 2003 and 2006, but left the organisation following a sponsorship negotiation with Visa and Mastercard that ended up in the US Courts - only to return to Fifa eight months later.
A statement from Mr Valcke's US-based lawyers said he denied all the accusations.
It said: "Jerome Valcke unequivocally denies the fabricated and outrageous accusations by Benny Alon of alleged wrongdoing in connection with the sale of World Cup tickets.
"Mr Valcke never received or agreed to accept any money or anything else of value from Mr Alon. As has been reported, Fifa entered into an agreement with Mr Alon's company, JB Sports Marketing.
"That agreement and Fifa's subsequent business dealings with Mr. Alon were vetted and approved by Fifa and its legal counsel."
Britain's former Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce said it was important for the organisation to take action if any wrongdoing was proved.
He told Press Association Sport: "Following the latest events regarding Jerome Valcke, I have consistently stated if allegations are made they should be fully investigated and if found there has been any form of corruption or dishonesty they should be dealt with in the strongest possible manner.
"Fifa at the moment is at a crossroads and it is more important than ever to re-establish their reputation throughout the world."