Indictments allege rampant corruption in football

The allegations come as the Fifa Under-20 World Cup tournament kicks off in New Zealand this weekend.

Multiple officials from world football’s governing body Fifa have been accused of rampant and systemic corruption worth more than $US100 million in bribes and kickbacks over two decades.

Media reports say US prosecutors indicted 14 people overnight, seven of whom were arrested at a luxury hotel in Zurich by Swiss police.

New Zealand is about to host the Fifa Under-20 World Cup, which kicks off this Saturday.

The chairman of the organising committee for that tournament, Jeffrey Webb, is one of the Fifa officials accused.

US attorney general Loretta Lynch says the allegations relate to a dozen schemes involving Fifa officials, including two current Fifa vice-presidents.

One of the schemes relates to the awarding of the 2010 World Cup to South Africa.

Former New Zealand football administrator Charlie Dempsey, who died in 2008, gained worldwide attention when he abstained from voting for hosting rights to the 2006 World Cup because of “pressures” from various people, despite having previously indicated support for South Africa.

His decision saw Germany win instead.

Those arrested in Switzerland face extradition to the United States, with Ms Lynch alleging kickbacks worth about $US150 million were received over a 24-year period beginning in the early 1990s.

“They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament,” Ms Lynch says.

“They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest.

“Instead they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves.”

Nine of the 14 indicted are Fifa officials, while the other five are involved in sports marketing and broadcasting.

They could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted on racketeering charges.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who is seeking re-election for a fifth term on Saturday New Zealand time, is not included in the indictment.

Fifa says it will still hold its presidential election this week, despite calls from European football’s governing body, Uefa, to postpone it.

Swiss prosecutors also opened a separate investigation into the bidding process awarding Russia and Qatar the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively.

But Fifa is ruling out a revote on the awarding of both tournaments.

Last month, the 2011 Rugby World Cup organising committee’s former head Martin Snedden said New Zealand could strike a part-hosting deal for the multi-billion dollar Fifa World Cup with Australia.

Mr Snedden said he believed co-hosting the tournament was a realistic goal given the success of the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and this year’s co-hosting of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

This week, Sky TV [NZX: SKT] landed exclusive rights to the 2018 and 2022 soccer World Cup tournaments for an undisclosed amount.

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