FIFA president Blatter denies crisis
ZURICH (AP) -- FIFA President Sepp Blatter insisted Monday that bribery scandals centering on two top officials have not put soccer in crisis, saying these are only "some difficulties'' that must be settled "inside this family.''
Blatter was speaking on another turbulent day for the sport's governing body when evidence emerged that FIFA's second in command suggested Qatar had "bought'' the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
On Sunday, senior executive committee members Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner were suspended by an ethics committee over allegations that Caribbean soccer leaders were paid $40,000 each to back bin Hammam's now-abandoned presidential bid.
Bin Hammam's withdrawal left Blatter as the only candidate in Wednesday's election, but his imminent coronation to a fourth term at the helm of the world's most popular sport has been overshadowed by scandal.
"Crisis? What is a crisis? Football is not in a crisis,'' he said during a spirited and sometimes raucous news conference. "We are not in a crisis. We are only in some difficulties and these difficulties will be solved - and they will be solved inside this family.''
Blatter also said there was "no issue'' in giving Qatar the right to host the World Cup, whatever FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke had said.
Qatar's World Cup organizers swiftly and "categorically'' denied Valcke's claim. They said they were "urgently seeking clarification'' from FIFA about the statement from its general secretary and are "taking legal advice to consider our options.''
Valcke told Warner in the email that Qatari bin Hammam might have been thinking that "you can buy FIFA as they bought the WC.''
The secretary general attempted to clarify his remarks Monday, saying that by using the word "bought,'' he meant that Qatar was using the "financial strength'' of an energy-rich nation to lobby for backing, but did not mean to claim any unethical behavior on its part.
"I have at no time made, or was intending to make, any reference to any purchase of votes,'' Valcke said in a statement about his email to Warner.
After years of dismissing claims of corruption, FIFA caved in Sunday, an extraordinary day in its 107-year history. On Monday, the fallout from the two suspensions came quickly.
Warner, the now suspended head of the 35-nation regional body representing North and Central America and the Caribbean, told the British broadcaster Sky he would consult a Swiss judge about the legality of the suspension, even though FIFA statutes prohibit soccer officials seeking verdicts at a national court.
Bin Hammam said he would appeal, saying the proceedings have been "absolutely not compliant with any principles of justice'' and that they "had been defined from the very beginning.''
The 62-year-old Qatari, who is suspended from his role as president of the Asian Football Confederation, acknowledged on his personal website that provided $360,000 for travel and accommodations of the 25 Caribbean Football Union members attending a May 10-11 meeting in Warner's native Trinidad.
FIFA's gravest corruption crisis was sparked by a file of evidence submitted by Chuck Blazer, the American general secretary of CONCACAF and a longtime FIFA executive panel member.
Blazer said there was "much more evidence'' to come detailing what happened when bin Hammam and Warner arranged the May 10-11 meeting.
FIFA's suspension of bin Hammam has meanwhile met with widespread anger in the Middle East. Asian Football Confederation Vice President Yousuf al-Serkal, an ally of bin Hammam from neighboring United Arab Emirates, said he didn't believe the charges and saw them as a bid to remove him from the presidential race.
"Bin Hammam has been mistreated,'' al-Serkal said. "Bin Hammam is the right person who should have been elected.''
"All the allegations were just from a report,'' he added. "I feel sorry for the person I have known for long time as a decent person.''
Newspapers in Egypt were especially critical of the 75-year-old Blatter, who is seeking a fourth term as FIFA's leader.
The Al-Dustour daily said bin Hammam had "surrendered to the tyranny of Blatter.'' Al-Gomhuria called the Swiss president a "sly fox who cannot be easily hunted'' and compared him to that country's longtime president, Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted from office this year.