Ángel María Villar Llona, head of the Iberian World Cup bidding team and chairman of Fifa’s referees’ committee, and Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar, president of the Asian Football Confederation, will soon have to answer questions in response to allegations that the two reached a deal to trade votes during the voting process to determine the 2018 World Cup location.
Fifa’s ethics committee formally opened the investigation into the Iberian and Qatar deal on Wednesday. The issue was first brought to Fifa general secretary Jérôme Valcke’s attention several weeks ago. The Sunday Times launched its own investigation into the issue and it is believed the information from this investigation was also used before Fifa’s ethics committee decided to investigate on its own.
Bin Hammam made a public statement earlier in the month that vote-trading discussions were taking place and that it “should not be surprising.”
“I will naturally be looking to the interests of Qatar because that is the bid for me,” he told the Leaders in Football conference in London. “All the bidders are telling me ‘OK, if you vote for me I will vote for you’. That must not be surprising to anybody.”
The committee will also be looking into what, if any, role may have been played in the vote trading by executive committee members close to the two countries. It is well known that Bin Hammam and Qatar have the support of Hany Abou Rida, of Egypt, and Worawi Makudi of Thailand, also executive committee members.
It does not appear that any executive committee members have broken any Fifa rules and ethics committee chairman Claudio Sulser made it clear that no disciplinary action has been taken against any members of the committee.
Valcke plans to thoroughly examine all allegations. “There is an investigation that will be led by Mr. Susler, and they will have enough time to see if there is more than rumors and facts to confirm what is said about collusion.”
Fifa will continue with its plans to finalize the voting procedure for next weeks’ bids, though it does not yet know how many of the executive committee members will be permitted to vote.