By Andrew Warshaw
May 30 – Yet another high-profile former FIFA bigwig has been thrown out of the game, making a mockery of the suggestion that corruption is over among those who have served football’s world governing body.
Seventeen months after resigning as general secretary of the Oceania Football Confederation, New Zealand’s Tai Nicholas (pictured) has been banned for eight years for financial misconduct – the third senior OFC official to be sanctioned since 2015.
Nicholas, who has also been fined £50,000, was found guilty by FIFA’s ethics committee of misappropriating FIFA money, as well as offering and accepting gifts and other benefits. His punishment came two months after a 6.5-year ban was meted out to his one-boss, former OFC president David Chung, reportedly over the awarding of contracts for the construction of the OFC headquarters in New Zealand.
Chung, an important ally in Gianni Infantino’s 2016 FIFA presidential election victory, headed the Papua New Guinea FA from 2004 and was the longest-serving of FIFA’s eight vice presidents – and effectively therefore Infantino’s number two – when he resigned in April 2018 after seven years in the role.
Oceania may be the smallest FIFA federation but it has not been able to escape being exposed as being riven with miscreants. Raynald Temarii, who served as a FIFA vice-president for Oceania, was banned for eight years in 2015 for taking €305,640 from disgraced ex-Asian football boss Mohamed bin Hammam “in gifts and other benefits” to cover legal costs.
Temarii was actually banned twice, the first time for a year which stopped him taking part in the vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups after being caught out by a British newspaper ‘sting’.
For years, Nicholas has been one of the most powerful sporting figures in the Oceania region. As well as being OFC secretary general, before his resignation he held privileged positions on a number of FIFA committees.
FIFA said the investigation into Nicholas “concerned the misappropriation of FIFA funds allocated to the OFC between 2014 and 2017 in relation to the OFC Home of Football, as well as to various undue benefits accepted from or offered to several football officials and other individuals.”
FIFA’s announcement followed its freezing of $13.3 million New Zealand funding to the OFC for the development of a ‘Home of Football’ sports facility in Auckland, according to local reports.
Current OFC president Lambert Maltock, who will be heading his confederation at next week’s FIFA Congress in Paris, said new governance and internal policies had been approved since Nicholas’ departure.
“OFC is doing all it can to prevent the misuse of funding and has regained the full support of FIFA,” Maltock said in a statement.
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