PtG Article 08.09.2006

FIFA does not feel obliged to work with difficult journalists

FIFA does not see any reason to comment further on allegations in Andrew Jennings’ book, “Foul!”, and also maintains its right not to enter into discussions with or answer to journalists who oppose FIFA and severely violates the principles of proper journalism. So replies FIFA to a letter from Play the Game which raised seven key questions in relation to Jennings’ book that was published in May this year.

Play the Game wrote to FIFA in June after FIFA complained in newspaper articles that Andrew Jennings had omitted or distorted its viewpoints. In the interests of equal and fair debate Play the Game wanted to ensure that FIFA was given the opportunity to respond and have its answers published in full without editing.

However, in its reply FIFA has chosen not to answer any of Play the Game’s questions directly. The letter mainly addresses general points.

Four of Play the Game’s seven questions related to the allegations of bribery against FIFA:

  • What has FIFA done to identify and sanction the corrupt leaders that took bribes from sports marketing company ISL?
  • Which FIFA official was the recipient of a bribe of one million Swiss francs from ISL in the winter of 1998?
  • How much money did FIFA loose in the bankruptcy of ISL?
  • How much is the FIFA president paid in total for his services to FIFA? 

Markus Siegler, FIFA’s Director of Communications, replies on President Sepp Blatter’s behalf that FIFA reserves the right – depending on the results of the investigations into the ISL affair  - to make any statement it may deem necessary of its own free will:

“At this point in time, neither FIFA nor its President see any reason to comment, once again, on the points that you raise, namely those published by Mr. Andrew Jennings in his book, Foul!” writes Siegler.

FIFA has a right not to engage with journalists

The last three questions in Play the Game’s letter related to concerns about freedom of speech after FIFA has decided to exclude Andrew Jennings from its press conferences. Play the Game asked

  • If FIFA will provide a list of examples where Andrew Jennings has omitted or distorted relevant information about FIFA?
  • If FIFA will present a list of the “inaccurate statements and aspersions,” it claims to have found in Jennings’ book?
  • On what objective criteria Andrew Jennings has been excluded from FIFA press conferences and what will it take for him to be allowed back? In what situations can other journalists expect the same treatment from FIFA?

Siegler replies that while FIFA generally has an open and transparent information policy, there are limits that journalists have to respect and FIFA has distanced itself from Mr. Jennings for a number of pertinent reasons.

“FIFA, as a private organisation, is not obliged to enter into discussions with or answer to journalists who oppose FIFA and severely violate the principles of proper journalism, namely to produce fair and balanced reports. FIFA consequently reserves the right to refuse to cooperate with persons who step over the boundaries of reasonable behaviour,” writes Siegler.

He promises to “continue to provide all journalists, who act properly and conduct research in a fair manner with all of the information they require.”

In accordance with our promise to FIFA, Play the Game offers you the full text of FIFA’s letter of 29 August 2006.

See also the original letter from Play the Game

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