Lausanne: FIFA has handed over computer data to Swiss police investigating the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes and suspended bidding for the 2026 tournament as it remained at the centre of a football corruption storm.
Brazilian legend Zico. Pic/AFP
Brazilian legend Zico, meanwhile, became the first person to officially declare himself a candidate to take over football's scandal-tainted world governing body from Sepp Blatter. FIFA said that computer data from its Zurich headquarters had been handed to Swiss prosecutors. Swiss authorities are investigating the 2010 FIFA vote that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
"FIFA today provided, as planned, data requested by the attorney general," said a spokesman for the global body. The BBC claimed that documents were seized from the offices of Blatter, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke and chief financial officer Markus Kattner. Swiss prosecutors refused to reveal the identity of the individuals involved.
FIFA has been thrown into chaos by the Swiss inquiry and a parallel investigation by the FBI into corruption by football officials which led to seven FIFA officials being arrested at a Zurich hotel last month. Valcke said Russia had won the right to host the 2018 finals "honestly" and "one must be crazy to say that all hosting rights were bought." The draw for the Russian tournament will be held in St Petersburg on July 25.
Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said preparations are going ahead with "all diligence". "We took no notice of the politics, we just pragmatically continue our preparations," he said. Bidding for the 2026 World Cup was meant to start this year before a final decision at a congress in Kuala Lumpur in 2017. But Valcke said the process has been halted.
"It was decided to place the administrative process on hold for the 2026 FIFA World Cup bidding due to the current situation," a FIFA statement said. "Due to the situation, I think it's nonsense to start any bidding process for the time being," Valcke told a news conference in Samara, one of the Russian cities due to host 2018 World Cup matches.
The United States, Canada, Mexico, Morocco and Kazakhstan have all been linked to possible 2026 bids. US authorities have charged 14 football officials and sports marketing executives over more than $150 million of bribes. They include the seven -- two of them former FIFA vice presidents -- detained in Zurich and now fighting extradition to the United States.
The corruption controversy marred Blatter's May 29 reelection for a fifth term as FIFA president, and he announced just four days later that he would resign. An election for a new leader will not be held before December, but potential successors are already jostling for position to run the world's richest and most powerful sporting federation.
Zico, a hero of Brazilian teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s and former sports minister, declared on Wednesday he would enter the race. "I feel I am capable. For sure, certain rules need to change," he told a press conference in Rio de Janeiro. "Much needs to change and much is going to happen."
Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, who stood against Blatter in last month's election, has indicated he could also stand along with former FIFA vice president Chung Mong-Joon of South Korea. But UEFA president Michel Platini refused to discuss his plans at a Paris press conference marking one year from the start of the European Championships in France, only saying it was a "good thing" the 2026 World Cup campaign had been halted.
"There is no leadership at FIFA," he commented. Wolfgang Niersbach, the president of the German Football Association and a Blatter critic, said the election should be held quickly. "With all due respect for his life's work, Sepp Blatter does himself, and football as a whole, no favours by drawing out his resignation," Niersbach wrote in a letter to German clubs and regional associations. "A new president must be chosen quickly at an extraordinary congress to represent a compelling new beginning."
He also called for "comprehensive reform" of the world body. "It must be our common goal to prevent unscrupulous people being enriched at the expense of football and tighter cash flows are needed." In a rare piece of good news for FIFA, though, the governing body said record numbers of viewers had tuned in for the Women's World Cup currently underway in Canada.