ZURICH (Reuters) - Former German football association (DFB) chief Wolfgang Niersbach faces a possible two-year ban from soccer following an investigation by FIFA into alleged irregularities over the awarding of the 2006 World Cup.
Niersbach, who still sits on the world soccer body’s Council as well as Europe’s UEFA Executive Committee, resigned from the DFB presidency in November after he was unable to explain a 6.7 million euro ($7.52 million) payment from the German World Cup organisers to FIFA.
On Friday a report from the investigatory chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee - an independent body - found Niersbach had violated its ethics code and recommended he be banned for two years from all football-related activity and fined 30,000 Swiss francs ($30,300)
Niersbach, who has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing, said he disagreed with the severity of the recommendations.
“The recommendations for sanctions by the investigatory chamber are inexplicable,” Niersbach said in a statement.
He said he was being investigated now for failing to inform FIFA’s ethics commission last year of the developments regarding the 2006 affair.
“As it is a question of honour and in order to protect my personal I will oppose this request with all possible legal means.”
The committee’s adjudicatory chamber said it had opened formal proceedings against Niersbach - who was a vice president of the 2006 organising committee - following the investigatory chamber’s recommendation.
Niersbach is also under investigation by the Frankfurt prosecutor for suspected tax evasion over the payment to FIFA.
He will be invited to submit his position including any evidence with regard to the final report of the investigatory chamber and may request a hearing, it said.
A DFB-commissioned report revealed in March that while there was no evidence of Germany paying FIFA members in return for their votes, payments were made to at least one former FIFA official through a web of accounts involving several other firms or individuals, including Franz Beckenbauer.
Beckenbauer, a World Cup-winning player and coach who headed the 2006 World Cup bid, admitted to making mistakes but denied any wrongdoing over the tournament in Germany. He is not suspected of tax evasion.
The World Cup affair, which has shocked soccer-mad Germany, was triggered by the payment from the DFB to FIFA which the DFB said last year was the return of a loan via the ruling body from former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus.
Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Writing by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and John Stonestreet