CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — FIFA's credibility is at stake over the 2026 World Cup and bids must be "bullet-proof," new President Gianni Infantino said Friday after a German investigation could not rule out that vote-buying secured the 2006 tournament for Germany.
Despite lawyers finding no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the 361-page report left open the possibility of corruption by Germany's bid team and detailed irregular payments linking 2006 World Cup officials to FIFA.
Every World Cup since 1998 has now seen bids for world soccer's showpiece event tainted by allegations of wrongdoing. Infantino is trying to clean up FIFA after years of scandals, while pledging to start the 2026 World Cup bidding contest in his first three months in power.
"We need to make sure that the bidding process that we do, that we put in place, is absolutely bullet-proof in this respect," Infantino said Friday.
"I will do everything I can to make sure that this happens because I think that the credibility of FIFA is, as well, at stake here and we have to get the 2026 process absolutely right."
United States, Canada and Mexico are likely contenders for the 2026 tournament.
"We need to make sure that we do everything we possibly can, not only to prevent strange things to happen around bidding processes but also to prevent the perception that strange things could happen," Infantino said exactly a week after being elected.
Infantino is yet to read the German report, by law firm Freshfields, which sought to explain a complex chain of financial transactions.
The report said a payment of 6.7 million euros ($7 million) made by the German federation to FIFA in April 2005 was "falsely declared" by the World Cup organizing committee for an opening gala and that the money had been intended for former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus.
That same day, FIFA transferred the money to a Swiss account set up by the late Louis-Dreyfus, and former FIFA president Sepp Blatter was aware of the payment, Freshfields said in its report.
"It's important to get as much clarity and transparency on everything that happened in the past in order to build a new future," Infantino said.
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