It turns out World Cup corruption isn’t limited to your Qatars, Russias and other developing parts of the soccer world. No, even the most historic of soccer strongholds, like Germany, aren’t immune to FIFA’s infamous pay-to-play game.
According to a report today from the Der Spiegel, Germany won the right to host the 2006 World Cup with the aid of a 10.3 million Swiss franc slush fund supplied by former Adidas chief executive officer Robert Louis-Dreyfus. The funds were used to secure votes of four Asian representatives on FIFA’s 24-person executive committee, giving Germany enough votes to host the 2006 finals.
“The money had been paid into a FIFA bank account in Geneva,” Der Spiegel reported, according to the Associated Press. “From there, FIFA allegedly promptly transferred the money to a Zurich account belonging to Louis-Dreyfus.”
Louis-Dreyfus, who died in 2009, was repaid after Germany secured the World Cup. According to Der Spiegel, Franz Beckenbauer, who headed the bid committee, and Wolfgang Niersbach, the current head of the German federation, knew about the slush fund in 2005, at the latest.
In July 2000, Germany was competing with South Africa, England and Morocco for hosting rights to the 2006 tournament, with England and Morocco eliminated from the process after two rounds of voting. After the second ballot, Germany and South Africa each had 11 of the committee’s 24 votes. On the final ballot, Germany won by a 12-to-11 vote, with Oceania’s representative abstaining from the process after being pressured to vote for South Africa.
South Africa was awarded the 2010 World Cup, but had it not been for Germany’s slush fund, Africa would have had its first finals four years earlier. According to today’s report, Germany used Louis-Dreyfus’s funds, then valued at $6 million, to augment the eight-vote European block it had already secured. The four Asian votes pushed Germany to 12, meaning the country only had to pull one more vote into its camp to have a majority.
Although Germany never got that vote, the slush fund’s power still came good. When Charlie Dempsey, Oceania’s representative, abstained in the third round of the 2000 vote, Germany had its majority, ensuring FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s tie-breaking vote, which would have gone to South Africa, was not cast.
This isn’t the first allegation of corruption surrounding Germany’s 2006 bid. Earlier this summer, German outlet Die Zeit reported the German government sent Saudi Arabia grenade launchers in exchange for support in their bid. Even before that, Dempsey’s decision cast doubt on the validity of the process, with New Zealand’s sports minister calling the surprise abstention of his countryman “distressing and embarrassing.”