Soccer's world governing body FIFA has banned two of its executives for offering to sell their World Cup bidding votes for cash, just two weeks ahead of the final decision. It follows an undercover investigation by the Sunday Times newspaper of London. There are fears, however, that the exposure could backfire on England's own bid to host the competition.
There have long been allegations of corruption at the highest levels of world sport - and now there's evidence to bear them out. Amos Adamu of Nigeria will be banned from the sport for three years, and the president of the Oceania Football Federation, Reynald Temarii, faces a one year ban. They've also both been fined.
FIFA'S ethics committee also suspended and fined four other officials for their alleged roles in the bribery scandal. All six men can appeal their punishments.
Ethics committee chairman Claudio Sulser admitted the affair had damaged FIFA.
"When one talks of FIFA," Sulser said, "there is generally a negative attitude out there, there's talk of corruption. And so I ask myself the following question: this is rather peculiar, but on the other hand it's no joke because FIFA is a big organization with many interests and where there are many interests, certain things can go awry. The difference, now, is we're trying to work in complete transparency."
England is one of the countries bidding to host the 2018 World Cup and the corruption claims could have ramifications here, too. The original investigation was carried out by the Sunday Times newspaper. Other FIFA officials have been critical of the British media's focus on exposing corruption within their organization and that could cost England votes.
Martin Lipton, chief football writer for the Daily Mirror newspaper, said, "Even the bid leaders themselves accept that it has been done. From my perspective the Sunday Times investigation had a great deal of merit - it exposed something that's happening now."
Lipton said the potential prize of hosting the World Cup means it's little surprise that some try to fix the result.
"It always comes down to who's friends with who and it always comes down to a little bit of money. It's always been that way, there's no change," Lipton said. "It's a huge economic benefit, it's as simple as that. The sort of money that's going to slosh around in terms of stadium investment, infrastructure investment, and also for the economy of the country - there will be billions coming in to any country that hosts the World Cup."
Back at Wembley, England fans say they're still in favor of England's bid for the World Cup despite the setback.
"I don't really care. As long as we get it, we deserve it, we can't seem to win it so we might as well hold it!" one fan said.
The vote on who will host both the 2018 and the 2022 World Cup finals will take place on December 2 in Zurich, Switzerland.
England will be sending their big guns - Prime Minister David Cameron and former captain David Beckham will be there.
They're up against Russia, and joint bids from Spain and Portugal, and the Netherlands and Belgium.
The U.S., meanwhile, is sending former president Bill Clinton to back its 2022 bid. They'll face up against Qatar, South Korea, Japan and Australia.
No matter which countries win, the claims of corruption at the highest level are unlikely to disappear.