FIFA’s number two Fatma Samoura said Tuesday she hoped the criminal investigations into the sale of World Cup rights to the Qatari-owned beIN Media group will not “disrupt” Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
Swiss prosecutors said last week they had launched a criminal corruption probe targeting Paris Saint-Germain president and beIN media chief, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and disgraced former FIFA executive Jerome Valcke over the sale of media rights for World Cups in 2018-2030.
“I hope that the ongoing investigations will not disrupt the organization of this World Cup,” Samoura told AFP in an exclusive interview in Madrid on Tuesday.
Samoura, from Senegal, took over the role previously held by Valcke as part of FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s team tasked with cleaning up the battered image of world football’s governing body after a series of corruption scandals.
“The World Cups, as you know, are the jewels of FIFA competition.
“Now that our structure has become much more credible, we cannot afford to jeopardize these competitions. The same goes for Qatar.
“The organization of the competition was awarded to them in 2010, well before the new leadership came in, and we will ensure that the right conditions are put in place to be able to organize this competition in the best conditions.”
The Swiss attorney general’s office said its probe into Valcke and Khelaifi includes allegations of bribery, fraud, criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document.
Italian police also seized a luxury villa in Sardinia that a police spokesman alleged had been used by Khelaifi as “a means of corruption.”
Khelaifi and beIN Media deny any wrongdoing.
– FIFA on ‘right track’ –
Qatar has found itself routinely accused of corruption since controversially winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup, charges it has always denied.
However, the latest scandal comes on the back of a widespread US-led investigation into corruption at FIFA.
“We have collaborated and continue to collaborate with the justice ministries of the United States and also Switzerland,” added Samoura.
“There is a firm and real willingness within FIFA to change. If we stick to the results published in FIFA’s governance and financial reports at the end of 2016, we are on the right track.”
Appointed in May 2016, Samoura, 55, is the leading light in FIFA’s drive for more females in leading roles in football governance as the organization’s first female Secretary General.
And while she believes FIFA is close to maximising its income from the men’s World Cup, the women’s game has plenty of room for growth to make it a commercial success.
The 2014 men’s World Cup earned FIFA a whopping $4.8 billion.
“Women’s football has every chance to develop, more so than men’s competitions, which will possibly soon reach a ceiling,” continued Samoura.
“Today the competition that finances the other competitions is the men’s World Cup.
“The idea is that through the new development strategy for women’s football, the women’s World Cup will be a product that can be sold to TV, commercial sponsors and made a special product, not a by-product of the men’s competition.”
In an unprecedented move, the Norwegian football federation announced last week its male and female internationals will be paid equally.
“I was one of the first to send a tweet to rejoice and encourage Norway for this very important step that has been taken,” added Samoura.