PtG Article 23.06.2006

FIFA officials abuse world cup ticket system

When FIFA’s Executive Committee starts work on a new Code of Ethics, it may consider stopping the practice of entrusting world cup tickets to officials from national football federations. It is a practice that appears to invite abuse, and according to media reports Ismail Bhamjee from Botswana is not the only one who has succumbed to the temptation of selling tickets on at inflated prices

Bhamjee is a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee and has admitted to selling a reporter from a British newspaper 12 tickets for England’s match against Trinidad and Tobago at three times their face value. The reporter videotaped the transaction where Bhamjee also offered to provide tickets for an upcoming game between England and Sweden at a hefty profit.

The reporter showed his material to FIFA whose Emergency Committee took swift action and immediately relieved Bhamjee of his World Cup duties and sent him home to Botswana where he now faces intense pressure to step down from FIFA’s Executive Committee.

Irish ticket sold on black market

Bhamjee’s tickets are not the only ones to have gone astray. A reporter with the British newspaper, the Mirror, has bought a world cup ticket on the black market in Germany which can be clearly identified as one of 270 tickets issued to the Irish Football Association.

The ticket had a face value of £60 but was sold at five times that price: £300.

According to the Mirror, the Irish Football Association has now started a top-level investigation to identify which official broke the rules and sold on the ticket. He or she risks being fired, writes the newspaper.

Rwandan in prison for ticket fraud

Meanwhile, Ismael Bhamjee is not alone in causing problems for the Confederation of African Football (CAF). In Rwanda, an executive member of the CAF Board has ended up in prison because a scheme to defraud FIFA of 200 world cup tickets went wrong.

According to BBC Monitoring Africa, Celestin Musabyimana, a former vice president of Federation of Rwanda Football Federations, backdated and submitted documents to FIFA indicating that he was still mandated to represent the national football federation. He then cooperated with a man in Switzerland to sell the tickets on the black market in Europe.

However, the fraud was discovered when FIFA told the football federation in Rwanda that it had sent Rwanda’s tickets with a value of 29,000 Euro to Musabyimana.

Musabyimana has been denied bail and will soon appear in court.

Bad apples or bad system?

FIFA was quick to punish Bhamjee and distance itself from his actions. The question is, however, if it would not be better to prevent FIFA officials from obtaining tickets altogether as the system continues to challenge their personal integrity.

This winter for instance, FIFA vice president Jack Warner only reluctantly gave up his shares in a travel agency that had obtained exclusive rights to sell world cup tickets in Trinidad & Tobago after FIFA’s Ethics Committee ruled that the ownership constituted a conflict of interest.

Jack Warner avoided further punishment unlike Ismail Bhamjee who bears the full force of FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s anger for bringing FIFA in disrepute. Sepp Blatter wants the Confederation of African Football to immediately replace Bhamjee as its representative on FIFA’s Executive Committee, and the CAF confirms on its website that its executive committee will meet shortly to take immediate action.