Football's world governing body, FIFA, suspended two members of its executive committee on Thursday for ethics violations related to next month's vote to decide the hosting rights of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.
FIFA's ethics committee sanctioned Amos Adamu of Nigeria and FIFA Vice President Reynald Temarii of Tahiti for allegedly trying to sell their votes for the World Cup hosting rights.
Ethics committee chairman, Claudio Sulser of Switzerland, said Adamu is banned from all football activities for three years and was fined $10,000. Temarii is banned for one year and was fined $5,000. Both men are barred from voting on December 2 on the nations that will host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. Both men maintain their innocence and say they will appeal the penalties.
Sulser emphasized that the panel did not take lightly its job of ruling on the case.
"These decisions were very difficult to take because the ethics committee was fully aware of what was at stake, and that the sanctions imposed could be very serious," said Sulser.
Adamu and Temarii were provisionally suspended in October pending the outcome of an ethics probe into a report published in Britain's The Sunday Times, alleging attempted corruption by the two FIFA executives. The newspaper reported it had secretly filmed Adamu and Temarii offering to sell their World Cup bid votes to undercover reporters for The Times, who posed as representatives of a U.S. business consortium hoping to bring the 2022 tournament to the United States.
Sulser says FIFA has a zero tolerance policy for violations of its ethics standards.
"We are in favor of healthy football," he said. "We are in favor of football as something positive in our lives. We don't want cheaters; we don't want doping; we don't want any type of abuses to be accepted in terms of respecting the rules."
With respect to the reputation of football's world authority, Sulser says:
"The damage caused to FIFA, with regard to its image, is very great," said FIFA's ethics committee chairman. "Let me give you an example. When one talks of FIFA, there is generally a negative attitude out there, there is talk of corruption."
The ethics panel also suspended four senior FIFA managers for their alleged roles in the bribery scandal. Each was fined $10,000. They also have the right to appeal.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke of France says what happened was unfortunate. But he says he is pleased with how the matter was handled.
"The way FIFA and the ethics committee reacted in such a short period of time - less than a month - shows how important it is for us to make sure that things are under control," said Valcke.
Valcke says the executive committee, which normally is composed of 24 members, will vote on the World Cup hosting rights as scheduled on December 2, without Adamu and Temarii.
"There will be only 22 members for the vote of the World Cup 2018 and 2022," he said.
Meanwhile, Sulser says the ethics committee cleared 2018 World Cup joint bidders Spain and Portugal, and 2022 World Cup bidder Qatar of alleged involvement in vote-trading.
"We didn't find sufficient grounds to reach the conclusion that there was any collusion," he said. "And therefore, we didn't move forward on that case."
The ethics committee reached it decisions during a three-day meeting at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.