FIFA to investigate Triesman's bribery claims

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA asked its ethics committee on Monday to investigate claims by former English Football Association chairman David Triesman that Spain is trying to bribe referees at the World Cup.

Triesman quit Sunday after being secretly recorded by a tabloid newspaper suggesting Russia was going to help Spain bribe referees at the World Cup in return for gaining its rival's support in the race to host the 2018 or 2022 tournament.

"FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke has requested the FIFA Ethics Committee to examine the alleged statements made by Lord Triesman in relation to the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups," world football's governing body said in a statement.

"In addition, FIFA has sent a letter to The Football Association asking The FA to provide a report on this matter, including Lord Triesman's position. FIFA will not make any further comment on this matter until it has been dealt with by the FIFA Ethics Committee."

The investigation is a further setback to England's faltering bid to host the World Cup for the first time since 1966.

The Mail on Sunday taped the 66-year-old Triesman two weeks ago talking with Melissa Jacobs, a former aide from his time as a government minister, but didn't publish the damaging allegations until two days after he presented England's official bid book to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

The bid board had hoped that replacing Triesman on Sunday with Geoff Thompson — a vice president of FIFA and UEFA — would draw a line under the humiliating incident.

Russia also said Monday that it hadn't received the letter of apology the FA claimed to have sent to Moscow.

England's bid team said it welcomed — and expected — FIFA announcing an inquiry into Triesman's claims and said: "We will cooperate fully."

"(It's) important that we can demonstrate to FIFA and the rest of the world at this time that we are serious about our bid for the World Cup 2018," said Alex Horne, the FA's acting chief executive. "The gossip and the nonsense doesn't matter."

Board member Sebastian Coe, who is also chairman of the London 2012 Olympics and formerly head of FIFA's ethics committee, spoke Monday by telephone with Blatter.

The FA also sent an e-mail early Sunday to top soccer officials in Russia to apologize — a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press — although Russian bid chief Alexey Sorokin said Monday the letter had not been received.

"England 2018 unreservedly apologises for these comments, for any suggestions of any improper behaviour on the part of any members of the Russian Football family, our fellow Bidders and for any express or implied criticism of the Russian Football Federation or of FIFA," part of the e-mail from the English bid team read. "The comments reported to have been made by Lord Triesman in no way represent the views of England 2018, any employee, Director, Ambassador, Consultant or adviser to the Bid.

"England 2018 bitterly regrets any damage to the integrity of the Russian Football Family, FIFA or any of its Member Associations caused by these comments. We are available to discuss this matter at your convenience."

England and Russia are bidding on their own to host either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, while there are joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands.

Australia and the United States are also bidding for either tournament, while Japan, Qatar and South Korea are concentrating on 2022 as they believe a European nation is favored to win for 2018.