Germany football chief resigns after bribery allegation
Berlin : Wolfgang Niersbach has stepped down as president of German Football Federation (DFB) over allegations that the country had won the right to host the football World Cup in 2006 by bribing the executive committee members of the International Football Federation (FIFA).
Announcing his resignation after an emergency meting of the DFB’s standing committee in Frankfurt, Niersbach denied any involvement in an alleged transfer of 6.7 million euros to the FIFA from a secret account of the DFB in early 2005.
As a member of the World Cup 2006 organising committee in charge of marketing, media accreditation and events organising, he had worked correctly and responsibly and he has nothing to hide, he said in a statement.
However, he is resigning to take the “political responsibility” for the charges made against Germany’s apex football body and to limit the damage to its president’s office, the statement said.
Niersbach, who took over as the DFB president in March 2012, said it was painful for him to be confronted with a past issue in which “I was not involved at that time and leaves many questions unanswered also for myself”.
He reiterated his position that he had “absolutely no knowledge of the background of the flow of funds” that are currently being investigated.
DFB announced that Niersbach will be succeeded by current vice-presidents Reinhard Rauball and Rainer Koch.
Niersbach has been under pressure to step down since the allegations of “vote buying” from the FIFA executive committee members for Germany’s candidacy emerged in October.
The bribery allegations centred around a payment of 6.7 million euros made by former Adidas CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus to the FIFA for its World Cup organising committee.
German organisers of the World Cup 2006 reportedly paid back this amount to Louis-Dreyfus in 2005 under a false declaration.
Even after his resignation, it is still unclear what was the purpose of this dubious payment to the FIFA and when Niersbach knew about it.
A document published recently by news weekly Der Spiegel showed that he was informed about the payment much earlier than he admits and this view is shared also by his predecessor Theo Zwanziger.
Niersbach is also facing an investigation by prosecutors on suspicion of tax evasion linked to the awarding of 2006 World Cup venue.
Earlier this month, police raided the residences of Niersbach and Zwanziger as well as the DFB headquarters in Frankfurt.
In their opening statement after taking office, Rauball and Koch pledged to conduct a thorough investigation into the bribery scandal and to establish whether Germany won its 2006 World Cup bid against South Africa through vote buying.