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AFC Salman+#039;s FIFA candidacy puts integrity checks to the test AFC Salman's FIFA candidacy puts integrity checks to the test

- (Huffington) - 1 years, 12 months ago...

By James M. Dorsey Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa's candidacy for the presidency of world soccer body FIFA is likely to serve as a litmus test for newly introduced integrity checks on the group's executives. Sheikh Salman, a former soccer player, has consistently like other members of his ruling family refused to respond to allegations by human rights groups that he was associated with the detention and abuse of scores of sports executives and athletes, including national soccer team players, alleged to have participated in a 2011 popular uprising that was brutally squashed. Sheikh Salman also played a key role in squashing a 2012 independent audit of AFC finances that raised serious questions about possible bribery, non-transparency, tax evasion, and sanctions busting in the awarding to Singapore-based World Sport Group (WSG) of a $1 billion master rights agreement. The audit by a PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) that constituted the basis for FIFA's banning for life of former AFC president and FIFA executive committee member Mohammed Bin Hammam counselled the AFC to seek legal advice on potential civil and criminal charges and review its contract with Singapore-based World Sport Group. AFC officials deny that Sheikh Salman or the group buried the audit. In a new twist, the officials recently disclosed that in addition to the audit, PwC had also delivered a report on proposed restructuring of the AFC. The officials said those recommendations had largely been implemented. In a reflection of the group's lack of transparency and Sheikh Salman's management style, the disclosure was the first time in three years since the audit that the AFC referred to a second PwC report. The report was never made public nor was it clear what PwC recommendations were implemented. Disclosure of the existence of the report moreover did not explain why the recommendations of the audit have been ignored. Sheikh Salman's secretive management style that bodes ill for reform of FIFA should he win the world soccer body's February 26 presidential election is further evident in current AFC negotiations with potential marketing partners. The AFC has denied reports that the group was negotiating an extension of its controversial WSG contract. The officials said the AFC was talking to various companies and had yet to take a decision. The PwC audit criticized the AFC for failing to put the contract to tender, a suggestion Sheikh Salman appears to be studiously ignoring. The audit further raised questions about the valuation of the contract and unexplained payments of $14 million to Mr. Bin Hammam through an AFC account by a WSG shareholder in advance of the signing of the original contract. The only known time that the AFC took action with regard to the audit besides honouring FIFA's banning of Mr. Bin Hammam was earlier this year when it effectively fired its general secretary, Dato...

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