ZURICH (AP) - Three countries competing in the scandal-hit 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting contests tried to keep campaigning as usual on Tuesday, as FIFA president Sepp Blatter called for advice and tougher scrutiny to help deal with corruption.
Bid leaders from Russia, Australia and Japan insisted that their work is not affected by reports of alleged bribery and collusion involving two FIFA voters and at least two bid rivals.
Meanwhile in Mexico, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge revealed he was telephoned by Blatter and suggested FIFA follows the same tough approach toward any corrupt members as the Olympic movement took when rocked by the Salt Lake City bribery scandal a decade ago.
Blatter’s private office also was reported by Swiss media as saying he supported a federal government review of legal loopholes which protect sports federations _ including FIFA and the IOC _ from criminal probes into alleged corruption.
Just over five weeks from World Cup polling day, three of the nine bid teams tried to maintain business as usual and fulfilled commitments at a scheduled soccer business conference in Zurich, near the headquarters of FIFA which is investigating allegations reported by the British Sunday Times newspaper.
“We don’t see how it impacts our bid,” Russia 2018 chief executive Alexey Sorokin said. “We haven’t been part of (the cases), and not even circumstantially mentioned in this.”
Australia’s Ben Buckley said his team’s 2022 strategy would not change, even while FIFA’s ethics committee considers sanctions against executive committee member Reynald Temarii, who is pledged to back the bid.
“We don’t spend an enormous amount of time trying to think through what may or may not happen. It’s not productive,” Buckley said.
Yuichiro Nakajima, leader of Japan 2022, said his bid committee could not afford to be distracted.
“We read the reports with great interest because it’s about something close to our heart, but it has not really affected us,” Nakajima told delegates at the event held to coincide with FIFA top officials arriving in Zurich for scheduled meetings.
All three leaders would have risked ethics trouble on Tuesday had they speculated on the identity of rivals being investigated for possible collusion.
FIFA rules warn World Cup candidates not to criticize rivals, and Russia discovered Tuesday that England has asked for a formal apology over Sorokin’s reported recent comments about London crime levels.
Also in the 2018 race are joint bids from Belgium-Holland and Spain-Portugal. The 2022 contest pits Australia and Japan against the United States, South Korea and Qatar.
The ethics panel is busy with The Sunday Times’ story.
The newspaper secretly filmed former FIFA general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen saying Spain-Portugal and Qatar struck a deal giving each seven votes from the 24-man FIFA executive in a secret ballot scheduled Dec. 2.
Officials from the accused bids have not confirmed they are being investigated, while Portuguese federation president Gilberto Madail dismissed the allegations.
Ten days ago, the newspaper released footage of its undercover reporters’ interviews with FIFA executives Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Tahiti’s Temarii seeming to offer their votes for sale. The ethics committee provisionally suspended both from duty until Nov. 17 when it is expected to give verdicts.
In Nigeria, sports minister Ibrahim Isa Bio said Tuesday that Adamu would face government action if FIFA decides the allegations are true.
Sorokin said he awaited the newspaper revelations last weekend knowing of “no such possibility” that a Russian official could be implicated.
“It is with curiosity that we read all this rather than concern and fear and expectation of something negative happening to us,” he said. “I have not been present at a conversation that was even close, or carried even a shadow of what has been alleged in the newspapers.”
Russia’s representative on FIFA’s ruling panel, sports minister Vitaly Mutko, will attend its two-day session starting Thursday.
Blatter will chair its talks scheduled to choose a voting process for the poll.
Eight of the nine bidders are directly represented on the panel. The other, Australia, was promised support from Temarii, who heads its neighboring Oceania confederation.
Australia officials said Temarii’s absence from Zurich would not damage their work.
Rogge urged his fellow IOC member Blatter to help make FIFA more transparent.
“I encouraged him (Blatter) to do exactly what he has done and to try to clean out as much as possible,” Rogge said in Acapulco after an executive board meeting.
AP Sports Writer Steve Wilson contributed from Acapulco, Mexico
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