FIFA suspends number-two official after ticket allegations

Thu Sep 17, 2015 7:07pm EDT
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By Mark Hosenball and Mica Rosenberg

ZURICH/NEW YORK (Reuters) - World soccer body FIFA put Jerome Valcke, its second-ranking official, on leave on Thursday just hours after an ex-footballer raised allegations he was involved in a plan to resell 2014 World Cup tickets for a lucrative profit.

FIFA, which has been rocked by Swiss and U.S. corruption investigations, said in a statement it was made aware of allegations involving Valcke and had requested a formal investigation by the FIFA ethics committee.

The swift action against his second-in-command is another major blow for FIFA President Sepp Blatter as questions about corruption during his 17-year reign build.

The allegations against Valcke come on top of probes by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Swiss Attorney General's Office into corruption at FIFA after the indictment of 14 senior soccer officials and sports marketing executives in May.

Blatter announced in June only days after the unveiling of the U.S. indictment that he would be stepping down as president following an election in February.

Earlier on Thursday, former Israeli soccer player Benny Alon said at a news conference in Zurich that he agreed in 2013 to pay cash to Valcke to secure plum World Cup tickets in Brazil. He said the plan was to then sell the tickets to fans at a markup and split the proceeds with Valcke.

Alon said the deal fell through and he never paid the soccer official. Reuters could not independently confirm Alon's claims.

Valcke "unequivocally" denied the allegations as "fabricated and outrageous" in a statement from his U.S. lawyer Barry Berke.   Continued...

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke speaks as he attends a news conference during his visit to the southern city of Samara, one of the 2018 World Cup host cities, Russia, June 10, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev