Qatar’s Mohammed bin Hammam ended his campaign to oust Sepp Blatter from the FIFA presidency yesterday, just hours before facing the ethics committee of soccer’s world governing body over bribery allegations.
Bin Hammam, 61, who launched his campaign on an anti-corruption platform and waged a bitter war of words with the long-serving Blatter, said on his blog that he was withdrawing for the sake of FIFA’s reputation.
“I made the decision to run for the FIFA presidency because I was and remain committed to change within FIFA,” he said. “However, recent events have left me hurt and disappointed — on a professional and personal level. It saddens me that standing up for the causes that I believed in has come at a great price — the degradation of FIFA’s reputation. This is not what I had in mind for FIFA and this is unacceptable.”
“It is for this reason that I announce my withdrawal from the presidential election,” he said.
He did not want his decision to be linked to the investigation by the FIFA ethics committee, he added, vowing to clear his name of the “baseless allegations” against him during his appearance before the committee.
Bin Hammam’s statement was the latest dramatic twist in the battle for the top job in soccer, during which he himself made corruption allegations against his rival, 75-year-old Blatter.
The two men had been scheduled to face off in an election on Wednesday for control of world soccer.
Bin Hammam, FIFA vice president Jack Warner of Trinidad and two other Caribbean Football Union officials were scheduled to be questioned by FIFA’s ethics committee later yesterday over allegations of bribery.
They deny any wrongdoing and Warner has promised “a football tsunami” of revelations concerning FIFA in the coming days.
On Thursday, bin Hammam dismissed the allegations against him as “completely false” and a “tawdry maneuver” to block his bid for the FIFA presidency. He also called for the investigation be widened to include Blatter.
The committee summoned the FIFA chief to ask him about claims he knew about the alleged cash bribes at the center of the probe into bin Hammam.
In a brief statement issued on Friday, Blatter said: “I cannot comment on the proceedings that have been opened against me today. The facts will speak for themselves.”
He had already dismissed as “ludicrous” suggestions that he had orchestrated the charges against the man seeking to unseat him.
Bin Hammam and Warner were targeted after Chuck Blazer, general secretary of regional body CONCACAF, reported possible misdeeds during a May 10 and May 11 meeting in Trinidad.
British media reports say bin Hammam and Warner are accused of offering US$40,000 cash gifts to national associations at the Trinidad conference in return for their votes in the presidential election.
FIFA has weathered a storm of criticism in recent months following its decision to grant the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
British politicians and the Football Association in England expressed outrage in the wake of England’s failure to win the 2018 bid.
A British parliamentary inquiry subsequently heard testimony from former FA chairman David Triesman alleging FIFA voters had demanded bribes and favors during the World Cup bidding contest.
Bin Hammam launched his bid for the FIFA presidency in the wake of his country’s bid for 2022, a surprise success that also generated controversy. The Qatari committee that masterminded the successful bid on Monday issued a statement denying allegations in Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper that they had used corrupt methods to win their prize.