German football chief pledges answers

2015-11-09 17:16
FIFA (File)

Berlin - Germany's football chief Wolfgang Niersbach faced a grilling Monday at a crisis meeting over graft claims surrounding a payment to FIFA, but said he was "confident" he could provide convincing answers.

Niersbach will be heard by top football officials and presidents of the 16 regional associations which make up the German Football Association (DFB) when the governing body's extraordinary meeting in Frankfurt begins at 2:30 pm local time (1330 GMT).

The hearings will be focused on the storm unleashed by a report in magazine Spiegel last month which alleged that a $7.2-million payment made by the DFB to FIFA was used to buy votes in order to secure the hosting of the 2006 World Cup.

The scandal took a dramatic twist last week with police carrying out raids at DFB headquarters and prosecutors revealing that three men -- including the DFB chief -- were being investigated for serious tax fraud surrounding the FIFA payment.

Prosecutors said they had only refrained from pursuing accusations of corruption because the statute of limitations had expired.

Niersbach however, appeared relaxed as he walked into the DFB headquarters on Monday morning, hours ahead of the board meeting.

"I am very confident that I will be able to answer all the questions from colleagues on the board and from presidents of regional federations -- answers that they are expecting now and that the public is expecting," Niersbach told TV news channel N24 as he arrived at the DFB headquarters.

The 64-year-old former journalist has so far shown no sign of quitting the top job in German football, even though questions are growing over how long he could cling on.

Rumours of who might succeed him are already circulating, with Reinhard Rauball, president of the German Football League (DFL), and Oliver Bierhoff, manager of the German national team, mentioned among the likely candidates.

Nevertheless, support for Niersbach remains high within the DFB and he could count on several key football bosses, including coaches Klaus Allofs, Hans-Joachim Watzke and Harald Strutz, to stand behind him.

The officials would be listening closely to Niersbach for his explanation on the payment to FIFA, including how long he had known about it and where the money went.

Questions have also swirled over why Niersbach was the official to sign off on the 2006 tax declaration including the questionable sum even though he had just taken on the job of general secretary in 2007.

Another burning question is over the involvement of Franz Beckenbauer, who led Germany's bid for the 2006 World Cup, and why he has left his long-time friend Niersbach in the cold and failed to publicly clarify the scandal.

Beckenbauer is himself the target of a FIFA probe, although world football's governing body has not specified details of the investigation.


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