The ‘kingmaker’ at the centre of the latest corruption crisis to engulf Fifa and the International Olympic Committee has resigned from all his football positions after being exposed as a suspect in a $1 million bribery scam.
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, one of the most powerful men in world sport, withdrew from the Fifa council elections at next month’s Asian Football Confederation congress and relinquished his other roles in the game after being identified as a co-conspirator in an indictment published by the United States Department of Justice.
The Kuwaiti royal, who denies any wrongdoing, took the decision after Fifa’s review committee initiated an assessment of his eligibility to stand for election to its council.
“I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC and Fifa congresses,” Sheikh Ahmad said in a statement.
“Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided it is in the best interests of Fifa and the AFC, for me to withdraw my candidacy for the Fifa council and resign from my current football positions.”
Sheikh Ahmad added that he would “disprove these, for me, totally surprising allegations”, having vowed the previous day to “vigorously defend his integrity and reputation”.
That was two days after a member of Fifa’s financial watchdog pleaded guilty to taking around $1m (£771,545) both from disgraced former presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam and a member of the Kuwait Football Association and Olympic Council of Asia.
Richard Lai, a US citizen, president of the Guam Football Association, former AFC executive committee member, and member of Fifa’s audit and compliance committee, was also suspended on Friday from all football-related activity for 90 days.
The indictment against him proved to be explosive after it named among his co-conspirators someone who was “at various times” a “high-ranking official of Fifa, the Kuwait Football Association (KFA), and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA)”.
That could only be Sheikh Ahmad, who, as well as being a member of Fifa’s ruling council, is the president of the OCA.
He is also a member of the IOC, where he cemented his reputation as a ‘kingmaker’ after being widely credited with helping Thomas Bach secure election as its president in 2013.
There was still no word from Fifa or its ethics committee on Sunday on the DOJ indictment.
An IOC spokesman said yesterday: “We have been informed that Sheik Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah has written to the Fifa ethics committee on this matter and has put himself at their disposal.
“And even though it is not related to any IOC matter, he has also informed the IOC chief ethics and compliance officer.”