Blatter bribes Warner with TV bonanza
By Andrew Jennings
Sunday January 29, 2012:
An explosive confidential letter written by FIFA general secretary Jérôme Valcke reveals that he and president Blatter secretly bypassed FIFA’s committees to give World Cup television rights to former vice-president Jack Warner, rather than sell them in the open market.
The hand-written letter (see left) that accompanied the rights agreement strengthens concerns that Blatter runs FIFA as his personal fiefdom, dispensing valuable contracts to keep his supporters loyal, with the acquiescence of chief executive Valcke.
Valcke wrote ‘Here is the agreement signed by the P (President Blatter). This deal has not been through all normal boards or comm. Hence so I'm asking to make no publicity on it for the time being. Kind regards, Jérôme.’
The letter is undated but appears to refer to rights for 2010 and 2014 in the Caribbean region. Warner, reportedly, re-sold them for around $20 million. Unofficial sources at FIFA claim that Warner was asked to pay $250,000 for the 2010 rights and $350,000 for 2014. It is also alleged that Warner never paid – and that this was well-known inside FIFA.
‘Seems to be authentic’
In an odd statement FIFA has responded that the letter ‘seems to be authentic, but we cannot confirm that.’
They added that ‘Blatter has the right to sign contracts which can be presented to the executive committee or the relevant committee. If Jack Warner is asked not to go public with the agreement then only to inform the relevant boards first.'
This is surprising because giving a lucrative contract to Warner was not an emergency matter where Blatter needed to take swift action, before the committees could meet to approve.
Warner claims that he was given favourable terms in return for delivering the 35 regional votes he controlled whenever Blatter stood for election as president.
The normal practice for sale of World Cup rights is that bids must be approved by FIFA’s TV and Marketing Committee (formerly Board) and then the Executive Committee. From Valcke’s secret admission, it appears that neither had been allowed to approve or reject the deal with Warner.
Sweetheart World Cup TV deals
Warner’s sweetheart World Cup TV deals were first revealed in May 2002 when then FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen produced a devastating 21-page report attacking Blatter and claiming ‘FIFA today is run like a dictatorship.’ A section focussing on Warner disclosed that ‘for the World Cups of 1990/94/98, Jack Warner received them at the symbolic price of one dollar.’ Zen-Ruffinen also claimed that Warner had acquired the rights for 2002 because he obviously pressured the President.’
Zen-Ruffinen was fired soon after – and the Warner deals continued for the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Warner resigned from FIFA in June last year amidst a bribery scandal and in September FIFA cancelled the deal for 2014 that had been struck with one of Warner’s family businesses.
FIFA claims that ‘all decisions relating to World Cup are discussed and approved by the relevant committees ahead of time.’ But this secret giving away of TV rights at potentially less than market value, without as Valcke claims the knowledge of FIFA officials, could lay Blatter and Valcke open to allegations of defrauding FIFA.
They could also be investigated by FIFA’s Ethics Committee for breaches of their Ethics Code for allegedly failing to ‘recognise their fiduciary duty to FIFA,’ for conflicts of interest and possible bribery. Under FIFA’s rules General Secretary Valcke is the key official for deciding which allegations are referred to the committee.