Worawi suspension extended by 45 days

Worawi suspension extended by 45 days

ZURICH — Fifa ethics judges have extended the suspension of embattled Thai football supremo Worawi Makudi while he remains under investigation.

The decision could derail efforts by the longtime president of the Football Association of Thailand to seek another term in an election scheduled for Feb 15. Monday is the last day for candidate registration.

A spokesman said late Saturday that Mr Worawi's team would meet on Sunday to discuss putting forward a proxy to contest the election.

The ethics committee judging chamber of the world football governing body said it had added 45 days to Mr Worawi's initial 90-day ban, which expired on Saturday.

Details of the charges faced by Mr Worawi, a former Fifa executive committee member, were not given.

Mr Worawi has been under investigation for his conduct during the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests. He and former FAT secretary-general Ong-art Kosinkha were also found guilty in a Thai court last July of forgery in his 2013 re-election. He was given a suspended 16-month jail term and is appealing against the ruling.

Mr Worawi and Mr Ong-art own 70% of the shares in TPL Co Ltd, which runs the business side of the increasingly popular Thailand Premier League, which his critics say is a conflict of interest.

Mr Worawi was a member of the tainted Fifa executive committee for 18 years until Asian Football Confederation members voted him out last April. He was a longtime ally of former Fifa presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar.

While serving as a Fifa executive member, Mr Worawi cleared his name of allegations that he used Fifa funds earmarked for development of the sport to build a national football development centre on his own land. He also fought off claims that he had asked for the TV rights of a match from England in exchange for his vote for that country to host the 2018 World Cup.

Mr Worawi reportedly voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup and British media said there might have been a link between his vote and Thailand's PTT Plc securing a gas deal with a Qatari company.

However, PTT insisted the deal had nothing to do with the World Cup vote as it was done on a government-to-government basis.

When Fifa first suspended Mr Worawi last October, it removed the entire FAT executive board and appointed a "normalisation committee" chaired by Adm Surawut Maharom to oversee the next presidential election.

Adm Surawut said earlier that Mr Worawi would be free to stand in the election after the ban expired.

"Mr Worawi will make a comeback after the 90-day suspension handed to him by Fifa expires [on Saturday]," FAT secretary-general Teerapong Wattanawongpinyo said on Friday.

Mr Worawi, who has been the FAT president since 2007, was determined to contest the poll, according to his aides. Legal manoeuvring was already under way to change the FAT voting procedure yet again, ostensibly to allow more Worawi loyalists to cast ballots.

Former national police chief Somyot Poompunmuang has also announced that he will stand in the election. He is backed by Thai Premier League giants Buriram United and Chon Buri as well as the King Power Group which owns the English Premier League side Leicester City.

Fifa ethics judges also agreed on Friday to extend secretary-general Jerome Valcke's temporary suspension for 45 more days, after investigators urged them to take more time to weigh corruption allegations against the organisation's former second-in-command.

Ultimately, they said, they wanted to see Mr Valcke banned from football for nine years.

The investigators also called for the 55-year-old Frenchman to pay a fine of 100,000 Swiss francs (US$99,000).

Mr Valcke's suspension followed allegations of involvement in a ticketing scam, in which he was accused of selling Brazil World Cup tickets on the black market at above their face value.

He had previously been accused of being party to a potential $10-million bribe paid to Jack Warner, the former head of the North and Central America football governing body (Concacaf).


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