[MY VIEW] Will the USA get a second bite at the apple? FIFA President Sepp Blatter didn't rule out the possibility of a
re-vote in the wake of the continuing investigation into Qatar's victory in the race to host the 2022 World Cup.
Not much about FIFA's politics is unscripted, so it's not outside the realm of possibility that Blatter already knows what evidence the whistle-blower, a former Qatar bid committee employee, has.
The whistle-blower's lawyers were reported to be negotiating with FIFA over the terms of their client's testimony -- expected to be given on Wednesday -- regarding charges that FIFA executive committee members Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma collected $1.5 million each for their votes in the 13-9 victory Qatar over the USA in the final round of secret balloting Dec. 2 in Zurich.
(UPDATE: The whistle-blower did not travel to Zurich to meet with FIFA officials on the advise of counsel. In the meantime, FIFA launched an investigation into corruption charges brought by American Chuck Blazer against fellow executive committee members Jack Warner and Mohammed bin Hammam. Given Blazer's close relationship with Warner, it's a stunning development and lays another nail into the coffin of bin Hammam's election hopes.)
Both Hayatou and Anouma say they're innocent, and the Qatari organizers issued a 1,700-word statement, blasting the "distressing, insulting and incomprehensible" allegations of bribery made by the Sunday Times last week to British Parliament.
It should be noted that the Sunday Times reporters did not publish the report itself, presumably for fear of a libel suit.
The Qataris aimed their attack on the messengers, the Sunday Times reporters posing as lobbyists in their undercover investigation that led to the suspension of two other FIFA executive committee members last fall.
“They do not state when the alleged bribes were to be paid, how the negotiations with the individuals concerned had been conducted or crucially how they came to know of the alleged bribes,” Qatar’s bid committee said in its statement. “On any proper view, their evidence is worthless.”
We'll know soon enough what evidence the whistle-blower has of meetings where the bribes were supposed to have been discussed.
To strip Qatar of its 2022 hosting rights would solve a very practical problem for FIFA: holding the 2022 World Cup in the Qatari summer.
But it would require that the bribery charges stick, which would mean that Hayatou and Anouma would also have to take the fall.
That would be a shocking turn of events as Blatter just came back from South Africa, where he won support of the leadership of the African Soccer Confederation that Hayatou heads in his battle for re-election as FIFA president against his lone challenger, Qatari Mohammed bin Hammam.
But the lingering controversy has already had a more immediate effect. It's all but ruined bin Hammam's chances in the June 1 election.
Blatter linked Guinean Amadou Diallo, accused of acting as a go-between in the alleged bribery of Hayatou and Anouma, to the Goal Bureau, a FIFA development project once headed by bin Hammam.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke went so far as to dismiss reports that bin Hammam had been asked to withdraw his candidacy in wake of the scandal.
Valcke's dismissal got more coverage that the initial reports themselves.
And left the bumbling bin Hammam on the defensive, yet another Blatter challenger headed to defeat.