Zurich - FIFA's suspension of secretary
general Jerome Valcke left world football reeling again on Friday from scandal and
further weakened its president Sepp Blatter.
Valcke was put on indefinite leave on
Thursday night over accusations that he agreed to let World Cup tickets be sold
at a vastly inflated price.
The Frenchman strongly denied the
allegations. But FIFA's chief of finance Markus Kattner took over "all
duties" held by Valcke in the day-to-day running of football's governing
body, FIFA said.
With FIFA still overshadowed by US and
Swiss corruption investigations, it announced on Thursday night that Valcke
"has been put on leave and released from his duties effective immediately
until further notice."
FIFA said it had been "made aware of a
series of allegations involving the secretary general and has requested a
formal investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee."
Valcke has been accused of involvement in a
scam to sell World Cup tickets at inflated prices and take a slice of the
The claims were made by Benny Alon, an
American-Israeli consultant at a company which had a deal with FIFA to sell
2014 World Cup tickets. The contract was subsequently cancelled.
In a strongly-worded statement issued by
Valcke's US-based attorney, the official decried the allegations as false.
"Jerome Valcke unequivocally denies
the fabricated and outrageous accusations by Benny Alon of alleged wrongdoing
in connection with the sale of World Cup tickets," the statement from New
York attorney Barry Berke said.
The statement said Valcke "never
received or agreed to accept any money or anything else of value from Mr
All dealings between Valcke and Alon's
company had been cleared by FIFA's legal department, the statement added.
Alon said his company, JB Sports, sold
World Cup tickets at up to three times their face value. Alon gave out copies
of emails to back his allegations at a briefing for invited journalists in
Zurich on Thursday.
Valcke has already been in trouble over
US media named him in June as the conduit
for a $10 million payment made by South Africa to a bank account controlled by
former FIFA vice president Jack Warner.
Warner is one of 14 people accused by US
authorities of involvement in more than $150 million in bribes paid by sports
executives to soccer officials.
Seven FIFA were arrested in Zurich on the
eve of its Congress in May when Blatter was re-elected to a fifth term. Swiss
police also launched an inquiry into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups
to Russia and Qatar.
Amid growing controversy, the 79-year-old
Blatter announced just four days later that he would stand down. A new
presidential election will be held on February 26.
Switzerland ruled on Thursday that former
FIFA vice-president Eugenio Figueredo, one of the seven arrested, should be
extradited to the United States.
Figueredo, a Uruguayan, has been charged by
the US justice department with soliciting millions of dollars in bribes from
sports marketing firms.
Another of those arrested, Jeffrey Webb of
the Cayman Islands, agreed to extradition and was sent to the United States in
July. Five are still challenging a transfer to American courts.
Valcke came under scrutiny in recent months
over what he knew about a $10 million payment from the South African FA to an
account controlled by Warner, then North and Central American (CONCACAF)
football chief, through FIFA in 2008.
US investigators believe the money was a
bribe in return for backing South Africa getting the 2010 World Cup.
FIFA has insisted it only acted as an
intermediary between South Africa and Warner.
Valcke has been under scrutiny throughout
his FIFA career.
In 2006 he was forced to step down as
FIFA's director of marketing after a New York court judged he had lied when
negotiating FIFA deals with Visa in breach of existing contracts with
FIFA was later fined $60 million over the
case, but Valcke, a loyal ally of Blatter, was installed as secretary general
in June 2007.
Blatter's action against Valcke could be
"a very strong signal to US investigators" about his intentions
following calls to cooperate and instigate reforms, a former senior FIFA