World Cup slush fund claims cast shadow over Niersbach

Sat Oct 17, 2015 7:15am EDT
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By Karolos Grohmann

BERLIN (Reuters) - German football association (DFB) President Wolfgang Niersbach was considered a potential dark horse for one of world soccer's top administrative posts but allegations of a slush fund to help the country win hosting rights for the 2006 World Cup have cast a shadow over his credentials.

A purportedly scandal-free background, long links with the DFB, the world's largest national football association, and limited involvement in global authority FIFA and its European counterpart UEFA singled him out in some quarters as an ideal candidate for one of soccer's leading roles.

However, Friday's report in Der Spiegel appear to have moved the goalposts somewhat, despite strong DFB denials that the 6.7 million euro ($7.60 million) fund was used in a cash-for-votes deal to hand the world's premier soccer tournament to Germany by a one-vote margin over South Africa back in 2000.

Der Spiegel also claimed Niersbach, who took over at the DFB in 2012, and 2006 tournament organizing committee chief Franz Beckenbauer, Germany's highest-profile former player, were aware of the money loaned by then Adidas CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus to the German World Cup bid committee.

While the allegations still need to be substantiated to determine whether there was any wrongdoing, Niersbach's involvement in the affair, however, is likely to have wider repercussions for the sport.

With the heads of FIFA and UEFA both suspended as part of ongoing corruption investigations, the football world had already initiated the process of sounding out possible replacements.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has already confirmed he will stand down on Feb. 26 to make way for a successor after U.S. and Swiss criminal investigations focused on corruption, bribery and racketeering charges plunged the authority into its biggest ever scandal back in May.

UEFA boss Michel Platini, originally favored to succeed Blatter, has seen his chances diminish in the wake of the Swiss attorney general office's initiation of criminal proceedings against the FIFA chief over a two million Swiss franc ($2.1 million) payment made to the Frenchman in 2011.   Continued...

Wolfgang Niersbach, the German Soccer Association (DFB) President and member of the FIFA executive committee, talks to the media during a meeting of the FIFA executive committee in Zurich, Switzerland September 25, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann