KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Wolfgang Niersbach has denied vehemently that Germany had used a slush fund in its pursuit of host rights to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
A report in the news magazine Der Spiegel had claimed that a €6.7m payment by the German local organising committee to FIFA in 2005 had been a scheme to repay the money which had been put up initially by the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, the then owner and ceo of Adidas.
Spiegel had claimed that organising president Franz Beckenbauer and communications director Wolfgang Niersbach had known about the fund which had been used to influence African voters in the FIFA executive committee. Germany pipped South Africa 12-11.
Niersbach is now president of the German DFB and a member of the executive committees of troubled world and European federations FIFA and UEFA.
He refuted claims by Spiegel in an in-house interview published on the DFB website as follows:
Q: What is your response to the Der Spiegel report of on a slush fund from which votes were allegedly ‘bought’ for the 2006 World Cup?
A: I can absolutely rule it out, categorically. I can assure you that there has been in connection with the promotion and award the 2006 World Cup definitely no slush funds used by the DFB, the bid committee or the organising committee later.
We believe that absolutely the best candidate was chosen on merit and we have won with our arguments for the choice of Germany as host by 12:11.
Q: For the 2006 World Cup, there was no vote buying, such as the Spiegel suggested?
A: Certainly not. I can assure all football fans. Also, Spiegel has refereed to evidence but has relied ultimately on an allegations from an anonymous source. The World Cup was not bought.
Q: In a press release the DFB has announced legal action against the allegations.
A: We have asked our lawyer, Christian Schertz, to consider the Spiegel article in terms of publishing law – in particular, the question of what the Spiegel cites as proof of vote-buying.
Mr Schertz already advised us that if the Spiegel cannot prove this assertion at the core of the story then it is guilty. We have therefore asked him, on an assurance of the core asseertion of the story being incorrect with reference to the 2006 World Cup, the DFB and the Organising Committee, to take all possible legal steps.
Q: Nevertheless, there was a €6.7m payment by the World Cup organising committee to FIFA in 2005 with a possibility that it was not used for the stated purpose.
A: There is an inquiry, as we stated on Friday. I was notified of this during the summer and ordered an internal review. To clarify, we have instructed an external, international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to undertake an inquiry. Even now, however, I can rule out that the payment was linked to the World Cup award in 2000.
Q: The Spiegel claims to possess a handwritten note from you in 2004 concerning this.
A: Again, to be completely honest, I cannot remember it, especially since I had little involvement in financial matters in my capacity as vice-president marketing and media.
I would therefore ask the editors of the Spiegel to provide us with this docuent, in order to understand what it is and whether it is my handwriting.
Q: How will the DFB proceed now?
A: This hurts and we are all deeply concerned that the memory of such a wonderful summer party for our country should be sullied more than nine years later. In a teleconference our entire DFB bureau agreed on Friday that we need to answer all the questions quickly and work together to achieve a complete investigation.
** An Adidas spokesman said: “We do not have any information about such a transaction carried out by Robert Louis-Dreyfus. We rule out that the business transaction was made by the Adidas AG company (Adidas-Salomon AG at the time),”