Hours after FIFA’s spokesman reasoned that a “presumption of innocence” required keeping the group’s officials arrested in a corruption dragnet in their positions, the international soccer governing body reversed itself and banned eleven people from involvement in the game.
“On the basis of investigations carried out by the investigatory chamber of the Ethics Committee and the latest facts presented by the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York,” FIFA stated, “the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of the Ethics Committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert, today banned provisionally 11 individuals from carrying out any football-related activities on a national and international level.”
FIFA blacklisted Jeffrey Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Jack Warner, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel, José Maria Marin, Nicolás Leoz, Chuck Blazer, and Daryll Warner.
“You cannot expect that at six o’clock in the morning the attorney general shows up and arrests people and that we would say that they are to be suspended right away,” FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio told an auditorium of reporters at a surreal Wednesday morning press conference. De Gregorio said the matter remained for the group’s “ethics committee” to decide. And decide, rather swiftly, they did.
U.S. Attorney General accuses FIFA officials of accepting bribes totaling $150 million. The investigation encompasses activities dating back nearly a quarter century.
“The charges are clearly related to football and are of such a serious nature that it was imperative to take swift and immediate action,” Hans-Joachim Eckert maintained in a statement. “The proceedings will follow their course in line with the FIFA Code of Ethics.”