(WFI) Sepp Blatter faces the biggest challenge of his FIFA presidency as he grapples with the World Cup bid bribery scandal involving two executive committee members that threatens to throw the bid race into chaos and ruin his legacy.

The FIFA Ethics Committee meets in Zurich today to discuss video footage and a report published by the Sunday Times that allegedly shows Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii agreeing to sell their votes for the 2018 World Cup vote scheduled for Dec. 2.

The committee will also be discussing allegations of misconduct by bid committees that have thrown the bidding contest for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups into complete chaos.

INSIDER understands that three of the nine bidders for the tournaments are implicated in evidence passed by the newspaper to FIFA.

As the global outcry about the allegations intensifies, FIFA is increasingly imperiled to act. But the sanctions available to its emergency and executive committee appear to be so limited as to throw the World Cup bid race into disarray if they were ever applied.

FIFA officials were yesterday unable to unravel for the intricacies of FIFA’s statutes, code of ethics and disciplinary code.

The most likely punishment facing Adamu or Temarii is suspension, including from the vote, pending their possible removal by the FIFA Congress at its meeting next June.

But bid sources immediately cast doubt on the legality of the bid race outcome being decided by 22 FIFA Executive Committee members.

“Bid nations signed very thorough and binding legal documents with FIFA which stipulate that the bid race will be decided by 24 members of the FIFA executive committee, not 22,” one bid source told INSIDER.

Privately, FIFA sources have acknowledged that the central conundrum they face is whether December’s vote can now go ahead as planned.

Sanctions against Adamu and Temarii make this a possibility while their continued role in the bid process would pose grave questions about FIFA’s transparency both from within the organization and beyond.

Legal minefield
FIFA’s ethical code is straightforward about bribery, which makes clear that no inducement may be made directly or via a third party.

The Ethics Committee has the powers of FIFA’s disciplinary code available to it, which would allow it to fine, suspend or expel a corrupt official.

But what is not so transparent is whether it has the power to expel a member of the FIFA Executive Committee. FIFA’s statutes say: “An installed member of the executive committee may only be removed from office by the FIFA Congress.”

FIFA declined to clarify the range of sanctions that could be taken. In a statement to INSIDER, FIFA said: “We are not in a position to speculate on what could be the potential measures adopted by the ethics committee.”

FIFA sources yesterday suggested to INSIDER that any “provisional measures” taken against Adamu and Temarii would be similar to sanctions taken against miscreant member associations. The FIFA Executive Committee has the power to suspend associations, but only its congress can enforce an outright ban.

Bid candidates immediately suggested that the bid race could not legally be adjudicated over by a reduced FIFA executive, also pointing out that the postponement of the Dec. 2 vote would wreak havoc with their strategic and financial planning.

Moral maze
As FIFA president, Blatter has additional powers available to him covered in the organization’s “internal regulations”, although it remains unclear whether they would empower him to intervene on an issue as big as this.

Blatter is increasingly concerned about the public perception of him less than a year out from a FIFA presidential election and may – if nothing else – intervene in an effort to safeguard his reputation.

A poll of readers in Britain’s Guardian newspaper last week revealed that 93% would not vote for

Blatter faces a battle to protect FIFA’s image and his legacy (Getty)

him given the chance. Such polls may be insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but the FIFA president is a keen sniffer of the public mood and desperate to protect his image. Any perceived cover-up would cause catastrophic damage to FIFA.

Privately, the bidding nations are confident that FIFA will somehow arrive upon a “clean” resolution to the crisis involving Adamu and Temarii.

More clear-cut are the ethics committee’s powers over individual bids.

FIFA is understood to be taking seriously documents passed to it by the Sunday Times relating to the alleged conduct of three candidates.

Whether FIFA would move so far as to actually suspend a bid for foul play remains to be seen. Such action would rock world football and be hugely damaging for FIFA.

Today’s proceedings will be heard in two sessions, with the Ethics Committee conducting ordinary business first and dealing with the World Cup business separately.

Asked if the Australian and American Ethics Committee members Les Murray and Burton K. Haimes would be allowed to adjudicate over proceedings in view of their respective countries participation in the 2022 bid contest, FIFA said it was a matter for the committee chairman Claudio Sulser to decide.

“Any decision regarding the presence of members of the committee for a particular part of a meeting would have to be taken by the chairman of the committee, taking into account for example any potential conflict of interest or any other reason,” FIFA confirmed in a statement.

Possible scenarios

Scenario 1 – FIFA does not act
Adamu and Temarii are exonerated or escape with a slap on the wrist and retain their places on the FIFA Executive Committee as well as keeping their votes for Dec.2. Furious at being stitched up by a British newspaper, England 2018 lose any tentative support from the pair. FIFA is riven by internal differences as they face a huge public outcry: one side is desperate to maintain the status quo and angry that their integrity is questioned, but the other half of the executive committee is desperate for reform and to escape the taint of scandal. The 2022 World Cup goes to established favourites, the USA; but 2018 goes to Russia. Riding a tide of public anger Mohamed Bin Hammam runs on a reformist ticket for the FIFA presidency.

Likely winners: Russia and the USA.
Likely losers: England and Sepp Blatter.

Scenario 2 – FIFA suspends Adamu and Temarii
FIFA’s ethics committee suspends Adamu and Temarii until after the Dec. 2 vote, leaving 22 Ex-co members to decide on the destinations of the World Cups. The bid process descends into a chaos of legal wrangling, claim and counter claim. World Cup bids counting on the support of the pair launch legal challenges against FIFA as do Oceania and the Confederation of African Football, as their confederations’ interests are diminished. A bitterly fought six weeks ends with Russia and the USA prevailing. Australia, England, Qatar, who may have counted on African or Oceania Ex-co members, lose out. Blatter loses key support in his African heartland for the FIFA presidency.

Likely winners: Russia, the USA and any viable presidential rival to Sepp Blatter.
Likely losers: Australia, England and Qatar.

Scenario 3 – FIFA sacks Adamu and Temarii and parachutes in replacements

Blatter orders the ethics committee to act strongly, and it sacks Adamu and Temarii. FIFA use some form of emergency powers to parachute in fresh executive committee members whose appointments are confirmed at next week’s executive meeting in Zurich. Anglophile Danny Jordaan is brought in as a replacement for Adamu and New Zealand’s Fred de Jong replaces Temarii. Jordaan’s 2018 vote goes with England and after Holland-Belgium drop out of the running, de Jong – who is of Dutch heritage – switches to the winning England bid. Australia are guaranteed support in the early rounds for 2022. Blatter vows to “clean up” FIFA if he wins another presidential term next year.

Likely winners: England, Australia and Sepp Blatter
Likely losers: Russia

By INSIDER’s James Corbett

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