RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke has dismissed claims of conflict of interest for being part of Brazil’s bid for the 2014 World Cup.
Valcke confirmed he helped the Brazilian bid back in 2007 but said that at the time he was out of FIFA and was free to act as its consultant.
Ending a tour to inspect host cities, Valcke also refused to comment in Rio de Janeiro on a report by France Football alleging that Qatar paid bribes to secure the 2022 World Cup.
The Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reported on Wednesday that Valcke received $100,000 from the Brazilian bid team, which at the time was led by former Brazilian football federation boss Ricardo Teixeira.
Valcke reportedly helped Brazil to organize its bid and prepare its presentations to FIFA’s executive committee.
"I helped this group of people just to make sure that their bid was the nicest one, being sure that they receive the World Cup because they were the only one candidate," Valcke said at a news conference following a board meeting of the local organizing committee.
Valcke, who had just been removed from his position as FIFA’s marketing director, called the report a "non-story."
"There was no lobbying, there’s no use of my person to try to change any mind of any ExCo (FIFA executive committee) members for them to vote for Brazil. There was only one candidate," he said.
Valcke said that after he returned to FIFA as secretary general later in 2007 he did not work for Brazil’s bid team anymore.
Valcke was a harsh critic of Brazil’s preparations last year and was in the middle of a spat with the Brazilian government that eventually required him and FIFA President Sepp Blatter to publicly apologize to Brazilian authorities.
On Tuesday, he reiterated that April will be the deadline for the country to have its stadiums ready for the Confederations Cup, which begins in June.
In Wednesday’s news conference, Valcke said he read France Football’s story about the alleged bribes involving the Qatar bid but refused to comment on it, saying the new ethics committee led by Michael Garcia would be the only ones who could say anything about the case.
"If there’s anything which has to be investigated, the ethics committee and the new ethics committee of FIFA, which is totally independent with this investigatory chamber and Michael Garcia, can open, if they wish, a case on Qatar 2022," Valcke said. "But it’s not to me to say what I think about."
Local organizers also introduced the official poster of the 2014 World Cup. The unveiling was originally scheduled for Monday, the date marking 500 days to go until the World Cup, but the event was cancelled because of the nightclub fire that killed more than 230 people in the southern city of Santa Maria on Sunday.
Brazil’s deputy sports minister, Luis Fernandes, who is also a member of the local organizing committee, was offended when a reporter asked if Brazil’s credibility on security would be affected after the death of so many at the nightclub fire.
"Similar tragedies have happened in France, where Mr. Valcke belongs, have happened in the United States, in Japan, in Russia, in China. Why nobody asks if these countries are ready to host a World Cup or the Olympic Games?" Fernandes said. "We have the conditions to organize a World Cup and a Confederations Cup with all the security possible, with excellence for those who will come here."