Blatter cleared by Fifa ethics body


Soccer:Fifa's ethics committee has cleared president Sepp Blatter in soccer's bribery investigation but temporarily suspended his former rival for the presidency Mohamed bin Hammam and vice-president Jack Warner.

The committee said it was satisfied there was a case for Mr Bin Hammam and Warner to answer, but stressed they were regarded as innocent until proven guilty.

Mr Bin Hammam, the sole challenger against Mr Blatter for the presidency of Fifa, has withdrawn from the contest amid accusations of corruption at soccer’s ruling body.

“Recent events have left me hurt and disappointed,” Mr Bin Hammam, a Fifa board member from Qatar, said in a statement on his website. “The game itself and the people who love it around the world must come first. It is for this reason that I announce my withdrawal from the presidential election.”

Voting is scheduled for June 1st, and at stake is responsibility for leading the body that oversees the global game, including the World Cup, the sport’s most-watched tournament. Mr Blatter has headed Fifa since 1998, taking the top job after working at the group for more than two decades.

The ethics-panel hearing today focussed on a meeting where Bin Hammam is accused of handing out about $2 million in cash to Caribbean officials for “development” of the sport. Mr Bin Hammam and Mr Warner deny any wrongdoing.

“I pray that my withdrawal will not be tied to the investigation,” Mr Bin Hammam wrote in the statement. He said he planned to attend today’s hearing “to clear my name from the baseless allegations that have been made against me.”

Mr Blatter, in a May 26th column on the Inside World Football website, said that the charges against Mr Bin Hammam and Mr Warner, who oversees the sport in the Caribbean, “brought him no joy.” He also said claims that the matter was masterminded by him were “ludicrous and completely reprehensible.”