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Prince William calls soccer scandal 'FIFA's Salt Lake City moment'



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LONDON — In comments made in a press conference Saturday before England's FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, the Duke of Cambridge compared FIFA's current corruption scandal to the one the International Olympic Committee faced prior to the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games.

In reference to the scandal, which has seen 14 people indicted on charges of bribery, racketeering, and money-laundering, Prince William said, "The events in Zurich this week represent FIFA's Salt Lake City moment, when the International Olympic Committee went through a similar period of serious allegations."

"FIFA, like the IOC, must now show that it can represent the interests of fair play and put the sport first."

While Salt Lake City was successful in its bid for the 2002 Olympic Games, the bid ultimately became besieged by scandal and investigations by the United States Department of Justice, the United States Congress, and Utah prosecutors. Ten members of the IOC were expelled from the organization, and 10 more were sanctioned by the body.

Salt Lake Organizing Committee heads Tom Welch and David Johnson were charged and ultimately acquitted of 15 counts of bribery and fraud. In the aftermath, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney was named head of the SLOC, and he ultimately guided the games to a $40 million surplus along with record-setting broadcast success.

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Prince William wants to see a similar turnaround in soccer's organizing structure. When describing his own country's governing body of soccer, the 152-year-old soccer association, he said, "I feel we need to ensure that we become the gold standard of sporting governance. A modern, transparent and inclusive organisation - representative of the broad and diverse society who play and love our game."

IOC president Thomas Bach also referenced the Salt Lake City experience when referencing the scandal. Referring to FIFA's efforts to clean itself up in a press conference last week, Bach said, "In the IOC we know from experience 15 years ago that this fight is challenging and painful." Bach instructed FIFA President Sepp Blatter to "strengthen your cooperation with the relevant authorities, to shed full light on all the concerned matters and to take all the necessary measures by means of your new structures which you recently created in order to properly address such grave allegations."

FIFA chairman Greg Dyke has said that England would support a boycott of the 2018 World Cup. Today, though, Britain's The Daily Telegraph reported that UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations, will not support a European boycott of the games. Instead, UEFA may choose to walk out on FIFA's executive committee meetings, though that move would risk losing the continent's voice at the game's most important table.

The scale of FIFA's alleged corruption dwarfs those given as part of the SLOC's bribery bid. In the end, Welch and Johnson's indictment alleged $1 million in bribery payments, whereas the 14 FIFA officials named in the indictment are suspected of accepting kickbacks and outright bribes of $150 million.

Last week Fraser Bullock, COO of the Salt Lake Olympics, commented to the Deseret News, "I think the fact that the federal government was willing to go after the corruption surrounding the Salt Lake Games certainly did set a precedent."

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Andy Larsen

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