Issa Hayatou, the Fifa vice-president accused by BBC Panorama of taking bribes, yesterday said he would not take out his anger on England’s 2018 World Cup bid.
Hayatou has threatened legal action against Panorama over their claim he accepted a £10,000 bribe in 1995 – he says the money was given to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) towards their 40th anniversary celebrations.
England 2018 has high hopes of winning Hayatou’s support in the Fifa executive committee’s World Cup vote tomorrow – but Monday night’s programme prompted fears that England’s bid could suffer a backlash.
Hayatou yesterday moved to dismiss such speculation yesterday by telling Press Association Sport: “There is a big difference between Panorama and my relationship with the England bid, there is no confusion in my mind.”
Panorama said that according to a list of secret payments made by now defunct marketing company ISL, Hayatou’s name appeared next to a cash payment of 100,000 French francs in 1995.
Hayatou, from Cameroon, insisted that it was not a bribe but a payment by CAF’s former sponsors approved by the confederation’s executive committee.
He added: “This money was not for me it was for the 40th anniversary of CAF.
“What Panorama also did is that they are saying I have been bribed now rather than something that happened 16 years ago.
“This was for the 40th anniversary of CAF. At that time ISL was the sponsor of CAF and they give the money to CAF and not to me, and the executive committee of CAF accepted it and approved it.”
Hayatou said he was now considering legal action against Panorama.
He said: “I have got an appointment with my lawyers, I will talk to them and I will take it from there.”
The allegations have prompted the International Olympic Committee to ask their ethics commission to look into the claims against Hayatou, who is also an IOC member.
The IOC said in a statement: “The IOC has taken note of the allegations made by BBC Panorama and will ask the programme makers to pass on any evidence they may have to the appropriate authorities.
“The IOC has a zero tolerance against corruption and will refer the matter to the IOC ethics commission.”
A BBC spokesman said: “We stand by our allegations. Mr Hayatou now seems to be saying that there is an innocent explanation for the payment from ISL.
“However, when Panorama wrote to him repeatedly and approached him in person offering him an opportunity to put his side of the story, he offered no explanation.
“In fact, he chose not to respond at all in the lead-up to the broadcast. Panorama did not allege that Mr Hayatou is currently being bribed.”