Havelange quits FIFA position in wake of ISL probe

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has stated that he has “no doubt” that a repeat of the damage caused by the ISL scandal will not happen again after Joao Havelange stepped down as the governing body’s honorary president following a report into the case by the organisation’s Ethics Commission.

The report into the infamous ISL case, conducted by chairman of the FIFA Adjudicatory Chamber, Hans-Joachim Eckert, was published on Tuesday as the Ethics Commission closed its investigation into the matter. FIFA’s former marketing partner collapsed in 2001, an episode that sparked a criminal investigation and exposed the practice of it buying influence from leading sports officials in return for handing the company lucrative World Cup broadcast and sponsorship rights during the 1990s. The publication of Eckert’s report comes after former FIFA president Havelange and ex-Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ricardo Teixeira were in July 2012 officially named as central figures in the scandal. FIFA published a Swiss court dossier detailing that Teixeira received at least 12.74 million Swiss francs in payments from ISL in the period spanning 1992-97. The document stated that Havelange received a payment of 1.5 million Swiss francs in 1997, with Blatter succeeding him in the FIFA presidency one year later. The dossier added that payments “attributed” to the two influential Brazilian sports officials came to almost 22 million Swiss francs between 1992 and 2000.

The Ethics Commission’s investigation came in the wake of last year’s developments. Eckert’s report described the conduct of Havelange and Teixeira as “morally and ethically reproachable,” adding that former South America Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) president and FIFA executive committee member Nicolas Leoz had taken “bribes” from ISL. Leoz resigned from his roles last week, citing health reasons. “It is clear that Havelange and Teixeira, as football officials, should not have accepted any bribe money, and should have had to pay it back since the money was in connection with the exploitation of media rights,” said Eckert’s report. “From money that passed through the ISMM/ISL Group, it is certain that not inconsiderable amounts were channelled to Havelange and to his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira as well as to Nicolas Leoz, whereby there is no indication that any form of service was given in return by them. These payments were apparently made via front companies in order to cover up the true recipient and are to be qualified as “commissions”, known today as ‘bribes’.” Blatter had served as secretary general of FIFA at the time of the ISL and while Eckert’s report cleared him of any wrongdoing it noted that his conduct could be classed as “clumsy”. The report said: “There are… no indications whatsoever that president Blatter was responsible for a cash flow to Havelange, Teixeira or Leoz, or that that he himself received any payments from the ISL Group, even in the form of hidden kick back payments. It must be questioned, however, whether president Blatter knew or should have known over the years before the bankruptcy of ISL that ISL had made payments (bribes) to other FIFA officials. President Blatter’s conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules. The conduct of president Blatter may have been clumsy because there could be an internal need for clarification, but this does not lead to any criminal or ethical misconduct.”

In summary, the report noted that as there were no formal ethics rules in place before 2004 “there are also no offences which have to be pursued further”. The report stated that Havelange submitted his resignation effective from April 18, with Leoz’s subsequent exit meaning any further measures would prove “superfluous”. Commenting on Eckert’s report, Blatter said in a statement: “I note with satisfaction that this report confirms that ‘President Blatter’s conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules’. I have no doubt that FIFA, thanks to the governance reform process that I proposed, now have the mechanisms and means to ensure that such an issue – which has caused untold damage to the reputation of our institution – does not happen again.” Meanwhile FIFA’s Ethics Commission has also banned FIFA Executive Committee member Vernon Manilal Fernando from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level for a period of eight years after he was found guilty of several breaches of the FIFA Code of Ethics.