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December 24, 2007 Est 1999 Scotland's award-winning independent newspaper
'Warner asked me to make a cheque out to his personal account. I said we don't do that'
Panorama investigative journalist Andrew Jennings tracked down John McBeth to talk about corruption in world football. And once again, Jack Warner's name cropped up, he writes

THE MONTHS passed. Silence from the nearly-man, the almost Fifa vice-president. And then John McBeth agreed to meet. For a while we talked, off camera. We went away, checked, made more inquiries, developed thoughts we'd been maturing and revisited information already in hand.

Then we filmed with him, high up at Hampden. What McBeth told us that day triggered filming trips to the banks of the Rhine in Basel in Switzerland, a white beach in the Caribbean, a scruffy inner-city tarmac football pitch in London - and Aviemore. Aviemore? For a film about the turmoils of Fifa? Yep. Aviemore and Grantown-on-Spey. No, I didn't expect we'd go there either. But we had to.

John McBeth lost his nomination as a Fifa vice-president because another Fifa vice- president, Jack Warner, let rip in May, labelling him a racist and a bigot.' This came after McBeth was - perhaps a little ill-advisedly - quoted at length on corruption and problem regions, including Warner's CONCACAF.

Anybody who knows McBeth knows Warner's charge is a nonsense. The Scot is a man of ingrained faith and integrity, without a racist bone in his body. He talked frankly about what any well-travelled official or reporter knows. That there are serious corruption problems in world football and especially in Warner's empire in the Caribbean. With characteristic fairness, McBeth added that he wanted time to understand, to know more about the ethics of the developing world, before going any further.

Those observations would have triggered minor irregularities in the heartbeat of football's ruling caucus. But surely, with an annual sweetner of $100,000 a year, a $500 honorarium for every day away from home and cosseted in the world's finest restaurants and hotels, he'd soon see things the Fifa way. Everybody else does. McBeth admitted he feared being seduced by the regal lifestyle of the game's bosses.

But what McBeth said next moved the tectonic plates beneath the Fifa fortress on the hill above Zurich. McBeth breached the rule all of Fifa and most national associations impose on themselves. They see, hear, speak no truths about the rottenness at the heart of Fifa. They obey the Omerta of Zurich. There is no corruption at Fifa. Official.

Hands up everybody out there, beyond the ranks of the blazers, who truly believe this. A great stillness. All hands still in pockets. Not a movement.

Asked by reporters how he would cope with allegations of corruption at Fifa, McBeth, you may recall, said that if he found it, he'd feel duty-bound to expose it. And, bang, Warner was out of the traps, baying with simulated rage. Simulated because Warner loves racist comments so much he frequently makes them himself. He's been filmed at it, reporters have faithfully written down his taunts about other people's skin colour. He doesn't care. Fifa's ethics code outlaws racism. Unless the vile words are spoken by Jack Warner. He's a protected species.

Why Warner's objection at this time? In his interview at Hampden, McBeth told us his theory. Warner was "trying to deflect away the criticism that I was making of corruption".

What was there to deflect? What criticism could McBeth possibly make? What did he know that might come tumbling out if the big Scot got his feet under FIFA's boardroom table - but not his nose in the trough? Why did Warner want McBeth silenced?

Cast your minds back to that brilliant sunny afternoon at Easter Road in late May 2004 when a team from Trinidad & Tobago met Scotland's finest. Despite the pall hanging over Berti Vogts, the Scots were soon singing, "It's like watching Brazil".

Darren Fletcher was the star, getting his goal after six minutes. Gary Holt doubled the score on 14, nine minutes later Gary Caldwell made it three. Not a happy day for Clayton Ince in the T&T goal. And then Nigel Quashie made it four, 11 minutes before half-time. Stern John pulled one back in the second 45. And that seemed to be that.

But not, says John McBeth, for Jack Warner. The SFA were due to pay money to the T&T association for the game. "After the game he asked me to make a cheque out to his personal account for the game," said McBeth. "And I said, We don't do that, it should go to the association.' Then I found out later he'd approached several members of the other staff in my organisation."

McBeth did authorise a payment. "I sent to the Trinidad & Tobago Football Association and if they owed him money then they could pay it to him."

The slick action by the English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish associations to knee-jerk to Warner and oust McBeth from Fifa wasn't the only cruel blow. Those nice people at Nyon, overlooking Lake Geneva, ousted McBeth from Uefa committees. Perhaps it's time David Taylor had a word in Michel Platini's ear. Michel,' he could say, we've wronged a good man. And he has expertise and experience that Uefa can use. Let's give the finger to Fifa and reinstate him. It would be an honourable thing to do.' John McBeth's story isn't the only one we tell in Panorama. There's a couple more Jack Warner scandals to chew over. And Panorama has been busy investigating the prospects for an English bid to host the World Cup of 2018. Can they expect a level playing field? We've gone back and looked at England's last bid, to host the 2006 championship. We've obtained evidence of some curious payments arranged by the German bidding team on the eve of the vote in 2000. They won.

So it seemed right to go digging into Fifa's claims to be a moral, ethically regulated organisation. It didn't take long to unearth further scandals that cast a dull light over the bidding process kicking off next year.

We've unearthed new documents from a trial in New York late last year. The MasterCard company had gone to court claiming that Fifa breached their sponsorship contract. We'll show on screen the evidence that Fifa officials may have forged dates and signatures on a contract, in an attempt to fool the judge. They lost - and ended up shelling out $90 million - yes, $90 million - to settle the case. Our expert on Swiss law says that if false evidence was presented to the court, top Fifa officials could end up in jail.

At the heart of that case is Jerome Valcke, then Fifa's top salesman. After the judge accused him of multiple mendacity, president Sepp Blatter sacked Valcke, saying "Fifa could not possibly accept such conduct among its own employees".

But the spirit of forgiveness flourishes in Zurich. Mr Valcke is now second only to Blatter. He's Fifa's general secretary.

The English took McBeth's precious seat at Fifa and at his first meeting FA president Geoff Thompson, McBeth's replacement, was part of the unanimous decision to anoint Jerome Valcke.

You might think that the Warner scandals - and let's not forget his industrial-scale World Cup tickets rackets - would be meat and drink for Fifa's new Ethics Committee, presided over by the well-rewarded Lord Coe, who brought the Olympic budgetary blow-out to London. And you might think that the MasterCard debacle should be on his agenda. Is it? Are they? He doesn't say.

It looks like some rich nations with a track record of business corruption - think of Russia and China for a start - are going to bid to stage the 2018 World Cup. Formidable opponents when it comes to putting smiles on the faces and bulges in the wallets of some of the 24 men who rule Fifa and vote who gets the tournament.

Gordon Brown says he wants it too and former Sports Minister Dick Caborn, the Prime Minister's official ambassador to Fifa, is equipped with the first tranche of taxpayer's money. England spent £3 million last time.

Perhaps the FA should engage John McBeth as a consultant. He'd help them keep on the straight and narrow. But if Lord Coe does what he says he is going to do and casts a beady, ethical eye over the process, everything will be alright. Won't it?

Panorama's FIFA & Coe will be broadcast on BBC1 at 8.30pm tomorrow.

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Posted by: Alastair Sutherland, Glasgow on 9:35pm Sun 21 Oct 07
Very interesting and the truth on FIFA corruption will emerge in due course no doubt; John McBeth's initial comments were ill timed and nothing more; the man was treated shabbily but his time will come. Good luck to the investigative journalist.
Posted by: LUBO, ST ANDREWS on 2:34pm Mon 22 Oct 07
What an excellent article. When is the Panorama programme?
Posted by: Grant Philips, Glasgow on 11:10pm Thu 25 Oct 07
For Fifa and Uefa to act as they did and for the SFA not to back their man was nothing short of a disgrace. John McBeth is clearly a man of great dignity and with a wonderful reputation to secure one of the top jobs in world football... to treat him this way is shocking and I hope there are alot of people ashamed of themselves. He spoke his mind, can that ever be untimely...more power to you Mr McBeth and I hope your time will come again if you can forgive all concerned...
Grant
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