Interpol ditches FIFA deal as corruption scandal deepens

Fri Jun 12, 2015 4:17pm EDT
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By Gregory Blachier

PARIS (Reuters) - Interpol suspended a 20-million-euro ($22 million) sports "integrity" agreement with FIFA on Friday, at the end of testing week for soccer's scandal-hit ruling body that saw its chief spokesman quit, bidding for the 2026 World Cup shelved and records seized from its Zurich headquarters.

FIFA also faced growing calls -- this time from the European parliament -- for its outgoing president, Sepp Blatter, to step aside at once, while plans by Germany to reform the way the organization is run were roundly rejected by soccer chiefs in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Interpol's decision to freeze funding from FIFA to fight match fixing and illegal gambling was perhaps inevitable, coming only days after the international police organization put two former FIFA officials on its most-wanted list and the corruption crisis in world soccer deepened.

The increasing damage to FIFA's reputation raised questions about how long other associated bodies and even sponsors would continue to work with it.

"The real damage of this decision by Interpol is the wider perception that conflicted organizations are now deserting FIFA. It further exacerbates FIFA's 'unclean' image and its escalating isolation," said Chris Eaton, an ex-Interpol officer and former FIFA adviser on anti-corruption, now with the International Center for Sport Security.

Interpol's decision was a disappointment, FIFA said, since the 2011 "integrity in sport" program was not connected to the "current issues" it faced.

The corruption scandal erupted when police descended on a luxury hotel in Zurich on May 27 and arrested seven FIFA officials, pending extradition to the United States.

At the center of the investigation are transactions that went into accounts held in a bank in Trinidad in the name of CONCACAF, the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, that were "controlled" by former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner.   Continued...

Sepp Blatter addresses a news conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland June 2, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich