Suspended Asian Football Confederation chief and world soccer body FIFA executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam has vowed on his blog to clear his name in a session of the FIFA ethics committee on Friday called to discuss the results of an enquiry into allegations that he engaged in bribery.
The committee is widely expected at the end of its two-day suspension to uphold the charges and ban for life Mr. Bin Hammam, a 62-year old Qatari nation, from involvement in any professional soccer activity.
Mr. Bin Hammam described the allegations that he had bribed executives of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) at a meeting in Trinidad and Tobago to secure their support for his failed campaign to succeed Sepp Blatter as president of FIFA as “clear attempts to besmirch my name in the public domain.” He said he would prove his innocence during Friday’s ethics committee hearing and had the evidence to do so.
Mr. Bin Hammam has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Mr. Bin Hammam withdrew his candidacy for the FIFA presidency in late May hours before he was suspended pending an investigation into the bribery allegations. He has since lashed out at his suspension and charged that leaks of the report of the committee’s investigation that have fuelled the expectation that he would be penalized were designed to tarnish his reputation.
Although the report concludes that there is no smoking gun for the allegations that Mr. Bin Hammam in collusion with FIFA vice president Jack Warner sought to bribe CFU officials to ensure that they would support his FIFA presidential campaign, it is viewed as compelling enough to ban the Asian soccer boss. Mr. Warner, who also served as head of soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean resigned in a successful bid to avoid further embarrassment.
“It appears rather compelling to consider that the actions of Mr. Bin Hammam constitute prima facie an act of bribery, or at least an attempt to commit bribery,” the 17-page report says. It describes Mr. Warner as “an accessory to corruption.”
Writing on his blog, Mr. Bin Hammam asserts that “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.”
He says that “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, including in Trinidad & Tobago, in accordance with FIFA’s own practices as laid down by its rules and regulations.”
Raising doubts about the motives of the charges against him, Mr. Bin Hammam asks: “Why was the FIFA Ethics Committee in such a hurry to suspend me before the FIFA election took place, and then begin to search for evidence to find if I am guilty or not? Why have I not been treated in a similar way to others who, according to the Ethics Committee, received inducements?”
He answers his own question saying that “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.”
Mr. Bin Hammam who has been largely silent in recent weeks appears as feisty as ever. “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,” he said.
Mr. Bin Hammam is expected to fight a possible ban on his involvement in soccer by taking his case first to the FIFA’s appeals body and then to the Paris-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.
(James M. Dorsey, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, is a senior fellow at the Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org)