World soccer governing body FIFA, which
also suspended Mr. Bin Hammam as a member of its executive committee,
announced last week that its independent investigator, former New York
prosecutor Michael J. Garcia, had completed his enquiry into the
Mr. Garcia was
investigating allegations that Mr. Bin Hammam had bribed Caribbean
soccer officials to enlist their support for his failed bid to challenge
FIFA president Sepp Blatter in last year’ presidential election as well
as the Qatari’s financial management of the AFC.
FIFA said that Mr.
Garcia’s “final report, together with the investigation files, would be
submitted to the adjudicatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee for
examination. On the same day, all of the documents were sent by Garcia
to the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber, Hans-Joachim Eckert,” FIFA
said. The soccer body said Mr. Eckert had “deemed that the final report
was complete and decided to proceed with adjudicatory proceedings in
The AFC’s memorandum of
understanding with UEFA is part of a reformist effort to put an end to
what at best can be described as mismanagement within the Asian group
that has been progressing on the Leninist principle of two steps
forward, one step backward.
In a statement, the AFC
noted that UEFA, the regional association widely viewed as the gold
standard in good governance in world soccer, would assist the Asian body
in "marketing, legal and social responsibility matters apart from
promotion of good governance principles in the game," the issues it is
struggling most with.
Opponents of Mr. Bin
Hammam say the suspended soccer boss’s influence is greatest in those
parts of the AFC that deal with marketing, finance and legal issues. The
AFC last month effectively fired its marketing director Satoshi Saito,
who was seconded for two years to the group by the Japanese Football
Association (JFA), one of Mr. Bin Hammam’s staunchest critics. Mr.
Saito, the sources said, had long been barred from meetings with the
Asian group’s influential marketing contractor, the Singapore-based
World Sports Group (WSG) on the grounds that "the company holds all
plenipotentiary rights to AFC's marketing rights."
The AFC statement quoted
Acting President Zhang Jilong as saying the agreement with UEFA
constituted a milestone in the history of Asian football. "It is a
historical day for Asian football as we enter into the partnership with
UEFA. They have set the standards in world football and we are happy to
share their knowledge to develop the Asian game,” said the statement.
Sources said Mr. Garcia's
investigation report was believed to include a damning internal audit of
Mr. Bin Hammam's financial management of the AFC that asserted that he
had used an AFC sundry account as his personal account. The report also
raised serious questions about the propriety of WSG’s $1 billion master
rights agreement (MRA) negotiated by Mr. Bin Hammam.
WSG has taken legal steps
against this reporter in a bid to force him to disclose sources for his
reporting, squash media reporting and intimidate sources.
The company has so far
refrained from public comment on the audit that also raised questions
about $14 million in payments to Mr. Bin Hammam by one of its
shareholders in the run-up to the signing of the agreement.
However, in an August 28
letter to this reporter that first threatened legal action, WSG legal
counsel Stephanie McManus said that “PWC are incorrect and misconceived
in suggesting that the MRA was undervalued. They have neither considered
the terms of the contract correctly, the market, nor the circumstances
in which it was negotiated.” Ms. McManus did not comment on questions
raised by the audit about the payments as well as the negotiating
procedure and terms of the contract.
The sources said a deal
forged in late November during an AFC executive committee meeting in
Kuala Lumpur between Mr. Bin Hammam's supporters and several AFC member
association led by Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) president Makhdoom
Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat and opposed by reformists involved the holding
of new presidential and executive committee
in exchange for burying the report at least temporarily.
The sources said the deal
effectively had little substance given that the AFC had surrendered
control of the investigation of Mr. Bin Hammam s well as his
relationship to WSG to Mr. Garcia prior to the executive committee
meeting. They said cooperation with UEFA strengthened efforts to
clean-up and reform the AFC and would ultimately have to include an
enquiry into WSG's contractual relationship with the Asian body.
The audit conducted by
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on behalf of the AFC urged the soccer body
to seek legal advice related to Mr. Bin Hammam’s financial management of
the group as well as to the possibility of renegotiating or cancelling
the WSG contract.
The sources said an
enquiry into the contract was unlikely before the AFC’s April elections
but that the question was not if but when it would occur.
Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International
Studies and the author of The
Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.]