GENEVA – Suddenly, the June 1 election to elect a leader for soccer's governing body has just one campaign theme: corruption.
Just when FIFA President Sepp Blatter hoped he had put the organization's corruption problems behind him, English claims that six members of the executive committee were involved in bribery during World Cup bidding contests have thrown his bid for a fourth term into disarray.
The 75-year-old Blatter is battling Mohammed bin Hammam of Qatar for one of the world's most influential sporting jobs.
The accusations were made in the British parliament on Monday, and FIFA fought back on Tuesday, demanding to see evidence to back up the claims against a quarter of the 24-man group that runs world soccer.
Blatter promised to resolve the crisis before the election.
"We have to do it now immediately. We have exactly three weeks to do so," Blatter said in an interview with Qatar-based network Al-Jazeera.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke wrote to England's Football Association asking for a complete report plus "all documentary evidence" from David Triesman, the former leader of England's 2018 bid.
Triesman told British lawmakers that four long-standing FIFA officials — Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Ricardo Teixeira and Worawi Makudi — requested bribes in the 2018 bidding.
Lawmakers were also told in a submission from The Sunday Times newspaper that Qatar paid $1.5 million to two more FIFA officials, Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma, for the 2022 contest. Qatar won the vote, beating the United States in the final round.
FIFA said it has asked the newspaper for more evidence of information it received from a whistleblower within Qatar's bid.
Valcke requested detailed evidence in order to "examine the situation thoroughly and with clear-sightedness," FIFA said.
As FIFA's top administrator, responsibility falls on Valcke to ask FIFA's ethics court to open official investigations against any of the six under suspicion.
Leoz's spokesman, Nestor Benitez, called the accusations "pure fantasy and morbid."
"The South American football confederation always said that its votes were for Spain and no other country," Benitez said.
The Qatar football federation has denied paying Hayatou, from Cameroon, and Ivory Coast's Anouma, calling the allegations "wholly unreliable."
Hayatou, the president of the Confederation of African Football, "categorically denies" the claims, the African body said Wednesday. He threatened legal action to defend his name.
Bin Hammam played a key role in delivering the 2022 World Cup to his homeland.
"FIFA is not corrupted," the Asian Football Confederation President said. "We are victims of the popularity of the game."
FIFA's most senior American delegate, Chuck Blazer, said the alleged Qatari payments were his "greatest concern" among the English claims, and he expected the newspaper to publish more details on Sunday.
"If it turns out that what they're saying is supported by fact, then I would have a lot to say on the matter," Blazer said, without elaborating on what action he would seek.
The conduct of Warner, Leoz, Teixeira and Makudi in the 2018 contest won by Russia was described as "improper and unethical" by Triesman.
Warner, a FIFA vice president from Trinidad and Tobago, dismissed Triesman's allegations, saying he "laughed like hell" when he heard them.
"I never asked anybody for anything," Warner told Trinidad newspaper Newsday. "When these guys (England) came here, we promised to help. I showed them a place where they can put a playground. They promised to come back but they never did."
Warner said he thinks English officials are bitter after gaining just two votes in the 2018 contest — one from its own representative on the executive committee.
"How come not even one person from Europe voted for them?" Warner told Newsday.
Valcke has questioned why the claims — which included incidents said to have occurred in 2009 — were not reported earlier.
"If it was known, why has it not come to our attention? We have called and asked people to let us know whatever you have in this process," Valcke said.
Asked if the World Cup votes should be reopened, Valcke said the process had been conducted cleanly and all known evidence was examined.
Frank Lowy, the chairman of Football Federation Australia, said the allegations meant his country's bid for the 2022 hosting rights was doomed from the start.
"I could have stood on my head for 24 months and we still couldn't have got it," he said.
Australia received only one vote and was eliminated in the first round. The bid cost taxpayers about $45 million.
"Out of the 44 votes for the two World Cups, Australia, England and America received (a total of) four votes," Lowy told The Australian newspaper Thursday.
"So we were in good company. We had taken precautions before we started the process on who will be in the competition. With China not in, it was one of the conditions why we moved forward. Had they been in, we would certainly have had second thoughts (of pressing ahead)."
British Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said he had discussed the possibility of England breaking away from FIFA along with other countries.
"I have taken the temperature from other football associations around the world, particularly we did that in the wake of the 2018 bid," Robertson told the BBC. "At the moment there is a desire to try to work to change FIFA from the inside. If FIFA is unable to do that then I would say all options are possible.
"But at the moment we very much want to work with them and try to convince them they need to go through exactly the same process that the IOC went through in the post-Salt Lake City process."
Australia, which was badly defeated in the 2022 voting, played down suggestions it could ask for a revote.
"Ultimately this is a question that needs to be directed to FIFA the governing body," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Wednesday. "We were very disappointed. We put in a bid which was impressive and we pursued that bid in an ethical and impressive way."
AP Sports Writer Rob Harris in London contributed to this report.