The corruption saga rocking FIFA has taken a new twist following the suspension of the institution’s head of inspection team for the controversial 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, from football related activities for seven years.
Mr. Mayne-Nicholls was slammed the suspension by FIFA’s ethics committee on Monday for allegedly demanding favours from Qatar prior to voting in December 2010.
“The adjudicatory chamber of the independent ethics committee, chaired by Hans-Joachim Eckert, has decided to ban Harold Mayne-Nicholls, former chairman of the Bid Evaluation Group for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups and former Chilean Football Association president, from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level for a period of seven years”, FIFA declared in a statement on Monday.
“The decision was taken following a hearing in the presence of the accused and the chairman of the investigatory chamber of the ethics committee, Dr Cornel Borbely. In accordance with article 36 of the FIFA code of ethics, more detailed information will be given after this final decision becomes effective,” it added.
A declassified email from Borbely, reproduced on the website www.transparencyinsport.org, shows that in September 2010, Mayne-Nicholls contacted Andreas Bleicher, Aspire’s executive director of international affairs, asking for personal favours from Qatar before he produced the evaluation report. The Chilean FIFA chief specifically asked for his son and nephew to be given jobs in Qatar’s Aspire academy in Doha.
The request was originally honoured but later turned down, for fear it would leave space for ‘incorrect interpretations’ of the bidding process. “Considering FIFA’s ongoing bidding process for the FIFA World Cups 2018/2022 with the involvement of Qatar 2022, we believe it might be advisable not to follow up on these topics at this point, as this might leave space for incorrect interpretations, even though Aspire is not involved in the bidding process, of course not,” Mr. Bleicher responded in a follow up mail.
In addition to asking for places for his son and nephew at the Aspire Academy in Qatar, Mayne-Nicholls also wanted tennis coaching opportunities for his brother-in-law, according to investigators. The evaluation report reportedly gave Qatar the worst ranking, due to its extreme summer heat, but the country still won the 2022 vote, forcing FIFA to shift the World Cup from summer (June-July) to winter (November-December) at huge cost.
But the suspended Chilean football top shot has accused the FIFA hierarchy of trying to use him as a scapegoat, and vowed to contest the controversial suspension all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. “Concerning FIFA Ethics Committee ruling before the first instance, I will appeal to higher courts established in FIFA statutes and TAS/CAS”, Mr. Harold Mayne-Nicholls disclosed in a statement issued through his personal twitter account, @MayneNicholls, shortly after FIFA announced his suspension.
“I’m surprised FIFA have advertised a sanction that has pending appeals, and may be overridden by higher judicial bodies. I ask for understanding. I cannot comment because there is express prohibition to inform by the Ethics Committee @FIFAcom,” he adds.
Mr. Mayne-Nicholls’ trouble had started soon after he declared interest in contesting against Sepp Blatter for the FIFA President. Although, he later withdrew his bid, the probe was already underway. Remarkably, when the issue of being witch-hunted last November, Mr. Mayne-Nicholls said he did not think the ethics committee probe of his conducts during the bidding process was connected to his decision to challenge Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency.
“I do not think it is because I might want to run. I think it is because the ethics committee needs to have a very clear picture about everything that happened in the 2018 and 2022 bids. I get relaxed with this because if they are investigating such a small thing then I can imagine how they are investigating the real, big things and that will give us transparency,” he declared then.
By Olisemeka Obeche