Triesman affair 'sad' and 'regrettable': Valcke

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke says he doubts there is any truth to comments by the ex-head of England's Football Association alleging a conspiracy to bribe World Cup referees.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke says he doesn't think there is any truth to comments made by the head of England's Football Association alleging a conspiracy to bribe referees at the World Cup in South Africa.

"I can't imagine it is true, but we will see if there is anything true in what Lord Triesman said about a deal between Russia and Spain on match-fixing," Valcke said Thursday.

David Triesman's claim that Russia could help Spain bribe World Cup referees in return for support for its 2018 World Cup bid was recorded during a private conversation and published in a British newspaper last Sunday. Triesman then resigned as head of the Football Association and of England's 2018 bid.

"For sure it is regrettable," Valcke said. "It is sad that the day after the nine countries went to FIFA in Zurich [to present their bids] … you had the story coming out."

Valcke said he has asked FIFA's ethics committee, which is investigating Triesman's comments, to "come with their report very, very quickly," and he was expecting something as soon as Friday.

But he said England's bid is not certain to fail because of the affair.

"It is quite difficult to see what impact it will have on the bid, as the final decision on who will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will come on Dec. 2, so we still have six months to go. In six months a lot of things can happen," Valcke said.

Defending FIFA

The secretary general defended FIFA's stance on match-fixing, and said the federation has engaged Interpol to look into Triesman's allegations.

"We have immediately asked the people we are working with at Interpol to see what is behind this story and see if there is anything. We cannot go to the World Cup with the feeling that something could happen during the World Cup."

Valcke said a match-fixing hotline would be operational during the month-long tournament so players, coaches and officials could report illegal approaches. He said FIFA must protect the World Cup, "the most important asset we have."

Organizers have not received any warning from experts about a terrorist threat to the World Cup, Valcke said, but FIFA expects to be given a report on an al-Qaeda-linked plot to attack the Dutch and Danish teams "very soon."

Valcke also said FIFA would review its much-criticized ticketing policy ahead of the 2014 tournament in Brazil. Valcke conceded it was "poor" that just 40,000 tickets had been sold in Africa outside the host country.

He said FIFA is looking to provide free buses for fans from neighbouring Zimbabwe to help fill some stadiums in the north of the country, which have seen disappointing sales.

Ticketing problems

There were ticketing problems surrounding venues in Polokwane and Nelspruit in the north, and Port Elizabeth on the south coast, according to Valcke, who also said FIFA had paid for 200 buses to get fans from around Port Elizabeth to World Cup games. "Now they just have to buy the tickets," he said.

Valcke said there are real worries over empty seats at the South Korea-Greece game in Port Elizabeth and Paraguay-New Zealand match in Polokwane.

It has been suggested that FIFA is planning to transport people from Zimbabwe and Mozambique to help fill stadiums and avoid unwanted images of empty seats.

Valcke said FIFA probably should have lowered ticket prices for Africans outside South Africa, which were set at the same level as for the rest of the world.

"Again, we are learning a lot of things from South Africa," Valcke said.