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AFC boss urges FIFA to pursue probe

ASIAN Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam urged FIFA on Wednesday to pursue a corruption investigation into the bitter election campaign that saw him retain his seat on the executive committee of world football's governing body.

After a vote last week that was mired in claims of vote buying and perceived threats of violence, Bin Hammam came within two votes of being ousted after a 13-year tenure on FIFA's top body as well as the AFC presidency.

The 46-nation AFC congress voted 23 votes to 21 in favor of the Qatari against his Bahraini challenger, Sheik Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa. Two ballots were deemed spoiled and inadmissible.

Bin Hammam had made serious accusations of vote buying, claiming that the Olympic Council of Asia was offering financial inducements in the form of grants to those nations which cast their vote for Salman to win a seat on one of the key decision-making bodies in football.

"I think this is affecting the sport, I think everyone has a job to investigate these allegations," Bin Hammam said on the sidelines of the Soccerex convention at Wembley Stadium.

"If they are wrong, let them blame me. I invite them (FIFA), I urge them and I wish they are going to go ahead and investigate."

Bin Hammam says the FIFA Ethics Committee must look into the vote-buying claims to preserve the integrity of the game.

"I think FIFA failed this time to protect the interests of football," Bin Hammam said. "In the election I won by 23 to 21 votes, with two disqualified, which were both for me. I can assure you that at least 10 national associations did not vote for me because of the interference their Olympic Committee and their bad behavior. If I had been talking directly to the national associations I should have more than 35 votes ... I have evidence that some of the votes were changed in the last 24 hours before voting."

Boost revenues

Meanwhile, the AFC boss said that English Premier League clubs looking to boost their revenues in Asia need to give something back to the region. He said he welcomed the growing number of clubs playing close-season matches in countries like Thailand, China and Singapore but also had concerns.

"Asia doesn't benefit much from these tours," he said. "We have to benefit from our potential. Europe has maybe exhausted the possibilities at home and have to look to another market and they have come to Asia.

"That is the potential continent, not CONCACAF (North and Central America), Africa or CONMEBOL (South America). Asia is the future not just for Asia but all football in the future. The clubs have got a right to promote themselves but the youth of our region has to get something out of supporting these clubs."


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