Football: British lawmaker says Fifa candidate in 'cash for votes' scandal

Sheikh Salman (above) has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
Sheikh Salman (above) has strongly denied any wrongdoing.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - A British lawmaker has accused Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al Khalifa, a frontrunner in the Fifa presidential race, of being involved in a "cash-for-votes" scandal.

Damian Collins said in Britain's House of Commons that Sheikh Salman, one of the favourites to succeed Sepp Blatter in charge of the tainted world body, had questions to answer over his election as president of the Asian Football Confederation in 2013.

Sheikh Salman strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Collins, a member of Britain's ruling Conservative Party and a campaigner for better governance in sport, said there were "strong grounds to suspect" the Kyrgyz Republic's delegation to the AFC had voted for Sheikh Salman in the belief they would receive "significant financial support" for football projects from the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

The OCA is headed by an ally of the sheikh.

A spokesman for Sheikh Salman told Britain's Times newspaper last week there was no "credible evidence" behind the allegations.

Collins also told MPs that e-mails between the delegation and the OCA prior to the confederation's presidential election in May 2013, included requests for funding despite there being "no legitimate reason" for such requests.

His latest intervention comes ahead of Fifa's vote for a new president on Friday.

 

Collins said that if Sheikh Salman was chosen, the British government should withdraw support for any English Football Association bid to host Fifa tournaments.

Using a public petition to raise the issue Collins - whose comments are protected from any legal defamation action as he was speaking in parliament - said that "prior to Sheikh Salman's election to the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation in May 2013, details of the flights that the football federation of the Kyrgyz Republic (FFKR) delegation would be taking to and from Kuala Lumpur were emailed to the private account of the IT manager of the Olympic Council of Asia, of which a close associate of Sheikh Salman was head."

His petition noted that "three days before the vote, requests for support for 53 projects for Kyrgyzstan football to the tune of millions of pounds were discussed, although there seems to be no legitimate reason for the FFKR, part of Fifa, to be seeking funding from the OCA, part of the International Olympic Committee."

Collins added that the "FFKR approached the OCA again after the AFC election, asking when they would receive payment for their projects, which gives strong grounds to suspect that the FFKR voted for Sheikh Salman because they believed they would receive significant financial support from the OCA."

This, said Collins, amounted to a "fresh cash-for-votes scandal which needs urgent investigation".

"The OCA strongly denies these accusations which are entirely without foundation," the Asian Olympic umbrella body said in a statement.

Sheikh Salman's staff released a strong denial late Tuesday, saying: "Sheikh Salman has and had no knowledge whatsoever of any inducements offered, or of any payments made by the OCA to any football associations and absolutely no evidence has been forthcoming to show this to have been the case.

"Sheikh Salman won the 2013 AFC presidential election by a landslide, with 33 of the 46 votes. The other candidates received six and seven votes respectively. Shaikh Salman was clearly the overwhelming choice of AFC members."