Fifa ducks political football

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 11:28 25/03/2012

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World Football body Fifa is refusing to discuss the Oceania Football Confederation's "unfair" treatment of Fiji.

And British journalist Andrew Jennings is calling for answers from Fifa's transparency and compliance task force chairman – New Zealand's Frank van Hattum.

Last week the Sunday Star-Times confirmed Oceania had stopped Fiji hosting the Nation's Cup. That decision came after the confederation earlier took away Fiji's right to host the 2012 Olympic Games men's qualifying tournament, moving it to New Zealand.

Fiji FA president Rajesh Patel said Oceania's treatment of his country was "unfair", and came after the Fijian government issued contempt of court proceedings against confederation secretary-general Tai Nicholas.

As the world governing body, Fifa funds the Oceania confederation and also employs Nicholas in two committee roles, but says the Fiji situation is nothing to do with it.

"None of the issues you mention are related to Fifa. We suggest you contact the OFC," an unnamed spokesperson replied to Sunday Star-Times inquiries by email.

When elected Oceania president in 2011, David Chung vowed: "Rest assured I will do everything possible to promote unity, solidarity and transparency." But he did not respond to inquiries last week.

And after first agreeing to be interviewed, Nicholas later declined on legal advice. "As the matter is still before the courts, Oceania is advised not to make any public statements relating to the court proceedings," he said by email.

Oceania media head Priscilla Duncan said Chung and Nicholas were in Zurich for Fifa meetings.

Jennings' work recently contributed to the resignation of Brazilian Fifa executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira, and he has accused Fifa of "blowing kisses" at national associations.

Campaigning for the release of a Swiss criminal report, which names Fifa executives who received kickbacks from marketing and broadcast deals, Jennings said Van Hattum should be demanding answers from Fifa.

"New Zealand fans should make it clear that they expect him to speak out about the corruption that continues at Fifa," he said.

"He should be confronting Fifa head Sepp Blatter demanding he release the criminal investigation report. When European media force the report to be made public and Blatter is shamed, New Zealand might think to dump Van Hattum.

"Fifa will never be clean until Blatter and his gang are slung out."

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- Sunday Star Times

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