FIFA officials return gifts in corruption scandal

FA chairman Greg Dyke promises to return £16,000 watch from World Cup sponsors

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke
(Image credit: Tom Dulat/Getty)

In what is already been dubbed ‘Watchgate’, Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has promised to return a luxury watch given to him by the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) during the recent World Cup. According to BBC Sport, FIFA has “asked officials to return the watches or risk disciplinary action”.

The Parmigiani watches were a commemorative gift and came courtesy of one of CBF’s sponsors during the summer World Cup. Issued to 32 association chiefs, 28 FIFA executive committee members and five other members of South American associations, the watches were a lavish present at a time when football’s governing body was battling allegations of widespread corruption relating to the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Dyke has always been a strident critic of what some might describe as FIFA’s lax approach to ethics and will be hugely embarrassed to have been dragged into the latest unsavoury incident. “During the Fifa Congress in Sao Paulo, a bag with a watch inside was left in my hotel room by the Brazilian FA. I had no idea of the value and it has been left untouched in my office since returning to England, ” Dyke said on Thursday. “We are taking steps to return the bag and its contents, which are still in their original packaging…the fact that gifts of great value are being handed out randomly and often with the recipient unaware shows up a culture in need of change”.

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BBC Sport reports that Dyke says it has always been his aim “to donate the watch and other items to charity”. He added that he welcomed “FIFA’s investigation on the matter, including their intention to donate the items to good causes back in Brazil”.

Dyke’s explanation didn’t cut much ice with some, with former FA chief executive Ian Watmore accusing him on Twitter of “very poor” behaviour in not returning the watch immediately, adding it was an “error of judgement which weakens the FA stance against FIFA”.

Dyke wasn’t the only FIFA official endeavouring to extricate himself from an awkward situation. Vice-president Jim Boyce, who according to the Daily Mail is another vociferous voice for greater transparency in how football is run, apparently discovered his watch “in a souvenir bag in his garage last week and will return it”. The BBC reports that the CBF says each watch was valued at £5,336 but that an independent valuation has priced each watch nearer £16,400.

FIFA’s ethics committee, which is chaired by former New York attorney Michael J Garcia, has given officials until 24 October to return the watches. Those who fail to meet the deadline will be subjected to ‘proceedings’. In a statement the committee declared:

“The CBF should not have offered the watches, and those who received gift bags should have promptly checked whether the items inside were appropriate and, upon discovering the watch, either returned it or reported the matter. The FIFA code of ethics plainly prohibits such gifts. Officials may not offer or accept gifts that have more than ‘symbolic or trivial value’.”

According to the BBC, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was among the recipients “but it is not known what happened to that watch”.

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