German prestige took another potentially huge hit last week when the German magazine Der Spiegel broke the story that the committee set up by the German Soccer Federation to bid for the 2006 World Cup hosting rights ran a slush fund of more than 10 million Swiss francs ($11 million) to help secure those hosting rights.
The magazine reports that the committee bribed the four Asian representatives on FIFA’s 24-man executive committee to vote in Germany’s favor. The article went on to detail how the bribe money was obtained and paid out. The article said that Robert Louis-Dreyfus, at the time the chief executive of sports apparel giant Adidas, loaned the money to the German Soccer Federation and was paid back through a FIFA account after Germany was awarded the 2006 World Cup hosting rights.
On Saturday, the The Guardian reported that the president of the German Soccer Federation categorically denied that any bribes had been paid to secure the hosting rights. Wolfgang Niersbach said in a written statement, “I can rule that out categorically. I can assure that in relation to the bidding and awarding of the 2006 World Cup there were no ’slush funds’ at the DFB, the bidding committee or the later organising committee.” There still is an open question about the funding of a of €6.7 million payment from the German Soccer Federation back to FIFA for a cultural event during the 2006 World Cup which apparently never occurred.
Given all that has occurred around FIFA recently, none of this is too surprising. If these allegations are correct, however, they would point towards an organization that has long used its funds to grease wheels to accomplish things—or perhaps more simply, perks went out to the highest bidders for payments. At the least, it points towards the need for robust oversight going forward and a clean house of non-tainted or (at least non-corrupt) officials running the world’s most popular sporting organization.