The soccer world is stunned this morning by the news that Sepp Blatter, president of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) must face the organization's ethics committee on Sunday to answer questions about what, if anything, he knew regarding a bribes-for-votes scandal inside the soccer's world governing body.
How serious is this?
Those who follow the game closely aren't holding back:
"World football's governing body threatens to implode ahead of next week's presidential election," The Guardian declares.
That's right, this is happening just days before FIFA members are to vote. And not only is Blatter now part of the investigation, so is his main challenger for the presidency — Mohamed bin Hamman of Qatar.
Here's how FIFA describes what is going on:
"On 26 May 2011, FIFA Executive Committee member Mohamed bin Hammam has requested the FIFA Ethics Committee to open ethics proceedings against FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter on the basis that, in the report submitted by FIFA Executive Committee member Chuck Blazer earlier this week, FIFA Vice-President Jack A. Warner would have informed the FIFA President in advance about alleged cash payments to delegations attending a special meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) apparently organised jointly by Jack A. Warner and Mohamed bin Hammam on 10 and 11 May 2011 and that the FIFA President would have had no issue with these.
"Subsequently, the FIFA Ethics Committee today opened a procedure against the FIFA President in compliance with art. 16 of the FIFA Code of Ethics.
"Joseph S. Blatter has been invited to take position by 28 May 2011, 11:00 CET and to attend a hearing by the FIFA Ethics Committee at the Home of FIFA (Zurich) on 29 May 2011."
Bin Hammam and Warner, as the BBC says, are accused of offering bribes to the members of that Caribbean Football Union. "A file of evidence claims bundles of cash of up to $40,000 were handed over to members of the CFU at the meeting in Trinidad," the BBC reports.
According to the Guardian, 25 members of the Caribbean Football Union are eligible to vote in next week's FIFA election. Bin Hammam has said there's no "substance" to the bribery allegations — and now appears to be trying to say that Blatter knew about the payments. It isn't clear why Blatter, if he knew, wouldn't have said something if his rival for the presidency was involved.
Blatter has issued a statement, the BBC adds, saying that "I cannot comment on the proceedings that have been opened against me. The facts will speak for themselves."
All this comes after months of allegations that money exchanged hands before the awarding of the 2022 World Cup tournament to Qatar — bin Hammam's home.
FIFA says it will webcast the ethics committee meeting on Sunday.