Belfast Telegraph

Jim Boyce: Fifa officials should be dealt with in the strongest way

By Graham Luney

Jim Boyce is looking forward to escaping the soap opera that is Fifa and its controversial characters that continue to dominate headlines.

The former Irish FA president arrived in Zurich last night and strolled straight into yet another storm as close to 70 interview requests kept his phone busy.

The world governing body was plunged into the biggest meltdown in its scandal-hit history after a wave of arrests of football officials in the Swiss capital on corruption charges.

Seven officials including Fifa vice-president Jeffrey Webb from the Cayman Islands were arrested by Swiss authorities on behalf of the US Department of Justice which has indicted 18 people alleging bribery totalling more than 150million US dollars.

In a separate development, the Swiss attorney general also opened criminal proceedings over the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and seized documents and electronic data from Fifa's headquarters and will question 10 current Fifa executive committee members who voted on that tournament.

Former Cliftonville chairman Boyce accepted the role of Fifa vice-president after replacing the controversial Jack Warner in 2011. Warner, from Trinidad, is one of those indicted by the FBI.

But Boyce is stepping down as Fifa vice-president tomorrow, with Manchester United director David Gill taking on the role.

Boyce, who has also been chairman of the Fifa Referees' Committee and vice-chairman of the Media Committee, is relieved to be handing over the baton to Gill and he leaves with the sincere hope Fifa can get its act together.

"It's time for someone else to take on this role and David Gill will be doing that from Friday," said Boyce.

"Everyone knows my views on these issues and Fifa has accepted that these matters should be investigated thoroughly.

"This is another sad day for Fifa. I hope the investigations that Fifa have themselves initiated will lead to those individuals - if found guilty of dishonesty and corruption - dealt with in the strongest possible manner by the law authorities."

Tomorrow's presidential election, where incumbent Sepp Blatter is facing Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, is still expected go ahead.

In total nine Fifa officials or former officials and five corporate executives have been indicted.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issued a statement saying: "This is a difficult time for football, the fans and for Fifa as an organisation. We understand the disappointment that many have expressed and I know that the events of today will impact the way in which many people view us.

"As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the US and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that Fifa has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football.

"While there will be many who are frustrated with the pace of change, I would like to stress the actions that we have taken and will continue to take. In fact, today's action by the Swiss Office of the Attorney General was set in motion when we submitted a dossier to the Swiss authorities late last year.

"Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game."

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