No new light on under-fire Valcke

ZURICH • Fifa president Sepp Blatter did not address secretary-general Jerome Valcke's suspension yesterday as he skipped a scheduled press conference at its headquarters in Zurich.

But Wolfgang Niersbach, the head of the German football federation, said Valcke's ban was "briefly" discussed at Fifa's ongoing executive committee meeting.

The 54-year-old Frenchman was relieved of his duties last week over allegations that he was part of a black-market ticket-selling scheme during the 2014 World Cup.

"We must respect the presumption of innocence," Niersbach said.

He is part of a 25-member executive committee which was to receive updates on the range of crises within world football, including corruption investigations in the United States and Switzerland.

The German, however, declined to comment on the discussions held by Fifa's top brass since the meeting opened on Thursday.

Blatter was scheduled to face the media but this was postponed and then cancelled. It later emerged that he was interrogated by Swiss authorities, who also searched Fifa's headquarters.

World football's governing body had on Wednesday agreed to hand over Valcke's e-mail messages to Switzerland Attorney-General Michael Lauber's office - evidence that had been demanded as part of a probe into bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Yesterday, Fifa announced that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar would be held in winter from Nov 21 to Dec 18. But the controversy over the grant of holding rights to the Gulf country refused to die down, with Uefa president Michel Platini acknowledging that he "might have told" American officials he would vote for the United States' bid before he voted for Qatar.

The French football legend, among the candidates to replace Blatter at Fifa in February, has repeatedly come under pressure over his decision to back the controversial Qatar campaign during the bidding process in 2010.

Platini admitted he changed his mind about voting for the US after attending a November 2010 meeting hosted by the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy at his official residence in Paris - which was also attended by senior Qatari officials.

However, Platini repeated earlier denials of any impropriety surrounding that meeting and his decision, saying: "Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar but I knew what would be good."

Despite the scrutiny of that decision, Platini insisted that under his leadership Fifa would make a clean break from past controversies, "restore its image" and become less about political deal-making.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'No new light on under-fire Valcke'. Print Edition | Subscribe