FIFA.jpg
Photograph: EPA/WALTER BIERI

New research by a German news magazine has thrown fresh doubts on a claim that the country's 2006 World Cup organizers made a payment to FIFA to secure a grant of some 170 million euros (187 million dollars) from football's governing body.

According to Stern magazine Thursday, documents indicate instead that FIFA had already pledged 100 million euros without any contribution from German World Cup officials.

German organizers then paid the equivalent of 6.7 million euros to have the grant increased by 70 million euros, it was reported.

Notes found at the German football federation (DFB) in a tax investigation linked to the affair indicate the money went to the now banned FIFA executive Mohammed Bin Hammam, who was then supporting FIFA president Joseph Blatter's 2002 re-election campaign, Stern said.

According to the report, former DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach knew about the payment well before he admitted to doing so at a news conference in October.

In an explanation at the time of the payment, Niersbach said FIFA was ready to finance the German organizers with 250 million Swiss francs (170 million euros) in return for a payment of 10 million Swiss francs (6.7 million euros).

Niersbach said this had been agreed in a private meeting between Franz Beckenbauer, head of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee, and Blatter in January 2002 - a version of events denied by Blatter.

"I have got things straightened out with myself. I stick to my statement that I will not comment on the ongoing case," he said on Thursday in response to the latest allegations.

Niersbach is in Zurich around the FIFA congress in his capacity of FIFA and UEFA executive, positions he wants to keep.

But for the first time acting DFB president Reinhard Rauball did not fully back him, saying his future depends on next week's report of lawfirm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer which is investigating on behalf of the DFB, and what measures will be taken in the wake of it.

The payment was loaned by former Adidas boss Robert Louis-Dreyfus and then returned by the DFB in 2005 - allegedly via FIFA and masked as a payment for a World Cup cultural event which never took place.

Stern said it based its report on notes taken by former deputy DFB general secretary Stefan Hans following talks and meetings with leading federation officials. The two-page document was reportedly discovered in raids by tax investigators at the DFB's headquarters and the homes of a number of officials.

Prosecuting authorities in Germany have launched a tax evasion investigation into Niersbach, former DFB president Theo Zwanziger and former DFB secretary general Horst R Schmidt.

Niersbach, who was a vice president of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee, resigned as DFB president on November 9 saying he "recognized the time has come to take the political responsibility for events around the 2006 World Cup."

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