Jun 10, 2015

    Obama weighs in on Fifa scandal


    UNITED States President Barack Obama on Monday made his first comments on the scandal enveloping Fifa, football's governing body, saying the sport is a "massive business" that needs to be run with integrity.

    "In conversations I've had here in Europe, people think it is very important for Fifa to be able to operate with integrity and transparency and accountability," he told reporters at a news conference after the Group of Seven summit.

    Mr Obama said he could not comment directly on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's probe into alleged bribery and corruption at Fifa.

    But he said football is not only a game, but also a business and "a source of incredible national pride", and that the US wants "to make sure that a sport that's gaining popularity is conducted in an upright manner".

    Meanwhile, Olympic chief Thomas Bach said on Monday that Fifa needs "painful" but necessary reform.

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) president said Fifa's crisis was bigger than the bribes-for-votes furore over the awarding of the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City.

    "We know from our experience that putting everything on the table can be painful but it's absolutely necessary. We've seen that in our past," he said at the IOC's Lausanne headquarters. "It's only by doing that that the IOC restored its credibility.

    "We can only encourage Fifa to pursue the reforms that it has chosen to carry out. We appreciate that Fifa should be ready for substantial reforms."

    Mr Bach said the scale of the 2002 Games affair was nothing in comparison to the storm enveloping Fifa."The difference in magnitude is enormous," the 61-year-old told the media after an IOC meeting.

    "There is almost no comparison with what happened with Salt Lake City and what is happening at Fifa. It's hard to compare, perhaps on the principle, but not on the scale."

    Mr Bach addressed Fifa's congress the week before last in Zurich, 24 hours after the corruption scandal blew up with the arrest of seven Fifa officials as part of a US-led corruption inquiry.

    He told delegates there to cooperate fully with the wide-ranging investigation to shed "full light" on the corruption allegations.

    On top of a mass of bribery claims involving Fifa officials, the Swiss judicial authorities are probing the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar that has also raised questions about the 2010 event in South Africa.

    The scandal triggered the shock resignation of Fifa president Sepp Blatter, four days after his re-election for a fifth term.