x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Bin Hammam determined not to be a scapegoat

Mohamed bin Hammam arrived in Zurich desperate to save his career as Fifa bid to find a conclusion to a corruption scandal that has blackened the image of the world's biggest sport.

Mohamed bin Hammam landed in Zurich yesterday ready to fight the charges of corruption.
Mohamed bin Hammam landed in Zurich yesterday ready to fight the charges of corruption.

ZURICH // Mohamed bin Hammam arrived in Zurich desperate to save his career as Fifa bid to find a conclusion to a corruption scandal that has blackened the image of the world's biggest sport.

Bin Hammam, 62, stands accused of attempting to bribe Caribbean football officials to vote for him in the Fifa presidential election with cash gifts of US$40,000 (Dh147,000) each, during a Caribbean Football Union (CFU) summit in May.

A leaked Fifa ethics committee report seen by Britain's Press Association claimed the existence of "overwhelming" evidence against the Qatari, amid stories of brown envelopes stuffed with cash and clandestine meetings in hotel boardrooms. Bin Hammam will be the only executive committee member to face the ethics committee today because Jack Warner, the former Fifa vice president charged alongside him, has stepped down from all football activities.

The CFU officials Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester will also go before the ethics committee at Fifa headquarters today, but the attention will be focused on the outcome of bin Hammam's hearing.

Prompted by reports that he will be banned from football for life, the former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president - suspended since May 29 - came out fighting on the eve of his arrival in Switzerland.

"With just a few days to go before my hearing, there can be no doubt that there has been a campaign waged within certain quarters to ensure that I am seen to be guilty and eliminated from football in the court of public opinion, even before my hearing has started," he wrote on his blog on Wednesday.

"Despite these clear attempts to besmirch my name in the public domain, I will not allow my own suspicions to dash my hopes or to make me think, as some would wish, that I will have to travel a long and hard road to clear my name of the stain of this politically motivated affair.

"My years serving football and Fifa lead me to think, and presume, that at the very least the ethics committee will give me the fair hearing that I deserve, uninfluenced by political agendas or other interests.

"Notwithstanding the [biases] and the absence of fair proceedings since the start of this trial, over the past seven weeks my legal team and I have been working very hard to provide convincing grounds that fair play was highly respected and observed throughout my election campaign … in accordance with Fifa's own practices as laid down by its rules and regulations."

Angered by leaks to the media from Fifa officials, bin Hammam sees himself as a scapegoat for the corruption rumours that have swirled around the organisation since Qatar was awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup in December last year.

Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, pledged to rid the organisation of corruption after bin Hammam's last-minute withdrawal from the presidential contest, which allowed the Swiss to be elected unopposed for a fourth consecutive term on June 1.

A timeline of the corruption scandal involving the suspended Mohamed bin Hammam.

Dec 2, 2010 Qatar awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup. Bin Hammam, a former chairman of the Qatar Football Association, plays a key role in pre-vote lobbying.

Jan 6, 2011 Bin Hammam narrowly wins a new four-year term as president of the Asian Football Confederation.

Mar 18, 2011 Bin Hammam confirms that he will challenge Sepp Blatter in the Fifa presidential election in June.

Mar 28, 2011 Bin Hammam, 62, accuses Blatter, 75, of dragging Fifa down and says “people have been judging the entire organisation by the unpopularity of its president”.

May 25, 2011 Fifa announce that they are opening a corruption investigation into four officials, including bin Hammam and the Fifa vice president Jack Warner.

May 29, 2011 Bin Hammam withdraws from the presidential election. He and Warner are provisionally suspended from all football activities by Fifa’s ethics committee.

May 30, 2011 Bin Hammam says he will appeal.

June 1, 2011 Blatter is elected unopposed for a fourth consecutive term.

June 20, 2011 Warner resigns from all his positions in international football.

July 6, 2011 Fifa announce that the ethics committee hearing over the charges against bin Hammam will be heard on July 22 and 23.

July 7, 2011 Bin Hammam says he is “hoping to receive a fair hearing”.

July 20, 2011 Bin Hammam vows to clear his name.