German FA demands right of reply to slush fund claims

BERLIN • The German Football Association (DFB) has reportedly requested a right of reply in magazine Spiegel to refute the cash-for-votes allegations surrounding the awarding of the 2006 World Cup to Germany.

According to the website Meedia, the DFB's lawyer Christian Schertz has sent four demands for a right of reply to the Hamburg-based Spiegel.

The DFB is in crisis over claims in a recent Spiegel report that the 2006 World Cup bidding committee accepted a 10.3 million Swiss francs (S$14.7 million) loan from former adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

Spiegel alleges that the loan was used to buy the votes of four Asian members of Fifa's 24-strong executive committee to ensure the 2006 edition was awarded to Germany.

DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach has always been categoric that there had been nothing shady about the 2002 payment. "There was no slush fund, there was no vote-buying," he has said.

Under German media law, any individual or organisation has the right to refute any claim made against it by an outlet in print or online.

All four demands submitted by the DFB are directed towards parts of the Spiegel article where there is no evidence or details to back the allegations made and they are set be included in next Saturday's edition of Spiegel.

On Thursday, Niersbach claimed the 10.3 million Swiss francs payment was made to Fifa as an upfront payment transferred in order to secure a €170 million (S$262 million) subsidy from world football's governing body.

However, Fifa quickly refuted Niersbach's version in a strongly worded statement and called on the DFB to cooperate with its investigation into the ongoing cash-for-votes allegations.

Meanwhile, former DFB president Theo Zwanziger told Spiegel that he is certain that there was a slush fund, contradicting Niersbach's claims and accusing him of lying.

"It is clear that there was a slush fund in the German World Cup bidding process," he said in an interview published yesterday.

"It is also clear that the current DFB president knew of this already in 2005, and not only a few weeks ago as he claimed," added Zwanziger, who headed the association from 2006 to 2012.

"The way I see it, Niersbach is lying," he claimed.

The scandal has shaken football-mad Germany, where the 2006 World Cup is still referred to as a "summer fairy tale".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 25, 2015, with the headline 'German FA demands right of reply to slush fund claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe