Embattled German FA boss faces crisis meeting
BERLIN: German Football Association (DFB) boss Wolfgang Niersbach faces tough questioning at a crisis meeting today over claims that bribes were paid in order to host the 2006 World Cup.
Niersbach faces a grilling from the football officials and presidents of the 16 regional associations which make up the German FA when the governing body’s extraordinary meeting in Frankfurt begins at 2:30 pm local time (1330 GMT).
German football has been plunged into crisis since magazine Der Spiegel alleged last month that the DFB made a 6.7 million euros ($7.4 million) payment to FIFA in order to buy the votes of four Asian members of the executive committee in order to host the 2006 finals.
At the vote in July 2000, Germany saw off South Africa by 12 votes to 11 to win the right to stage the tournament finals, remembered here as the “summer fairytale”.
Niersbach has vehemently denied the claims, saying “there was no slush fund, there was no vote buying”, and claimed instead that the sum was used to secure 170 million euros of funding from world football’s governing body. However, some 50 police officers swooped last Tuesday on the DFB’s headquarters, as well as well as at homes of three accused-the DFB president, former DFB president and former general secretary.
The three are understood to be Niersbach, his predecessor Theo Zwanziger and ex-general secretary Horst Schmidt. Prosecutors said they were launching a tax probe against the three football bosses, and that they only refrained from pursuing accusations of corruption because the statute of limitations on graft had expired.
Pressure to resign
The scandal has left 64-year-old Niersbach under intense pressure to resign. Zwanziger has accused Niersbach of lying, saying it was “clear that there was a slush fund in the German World Cup bidding process”.
German daily Die Welt said the DFB plans to set up an ethics committee, but both its members and the general public want answers now. “I hope that the DFB will shed light on the matter as soon as possible, because this affair irritates many people,” said German politician Volker Bouffier, premier of central Hesse state.
Rumours of who might succeed Niersbach 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.
Despite ongoing investigations by both German authorities and FIFA’s Ethics Committee, Niersbach still enjoys support in the DFB, but he needs to come up with convincing answers.
Among the questions is how long he knew about the dubious payment of 6.7 million euros, what was the money used for and where did it go. Observers have also wondered why football legend Franz Beckenbauer, who led Germany’s bid to host the 2006 World Cup and was head of the organising committee, has left his long-time friend Niersbach in the cold and refused to clarify the scandal.
Niersbach wants to stay in office and plans to travel with the world champions to play France in a friendly in Paris on Friday. But today’s meeting promises to be the toughest test yet of his three years in charge of Germany’s most powerful sporting body. —AFP