Valcke scores second own goal of FIFA career

ZURICH - Jerome Valcke, a former television executive who has become one of the most powerful men in sport, must hope fortune smiles on him again after scoring the second own goal of his FIFA career.

Four and a half years ago Valcke lost his role as marketing director at football's governing body following botched negotiations over a sponsorship deal.

He bounced back from that setback in remarkable style when he was appointed secretary general of FIFA only eight months later.

Now, the 50-year-old Frenchman is in trouble again after denying on Monday he suggested in an email to FIFA vice-president Jack Warner that Qatar had "bought" the rights to host the 2022 World Cup.

"I'd like to clarify what I may use in an email - a "lighter" way of expression by nature - a much less formal tone than in any form of correspondence," Valcke said in a statement.

"Having said that, when I refer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in that email, what I wanted to say is the winning bid used their financial strength to lobby for support.

"They were a candidate with a very important budget and have used it to heavily promote their bid all round the world in a very efficient manner," Valcke added.

"I have at no time made, or was intending to make, any reference to any purchase of votes or similar unethical behaviour."

SOUTH AFRICA

Valcke is widely credited with the success of last year's World Cup in South Africa, overseeing preparations and cajoling local organisers into action when they threatened to fall behind schedule.

He is set to play a similar role with the 2014 World Cup which is already being plagued by delays and worries over host nation Brazil's creaking infrastructure.

A loyal follower of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, he joined the organisation in 2003 after quitting as chief executive of marketing firm Sportfive.

In his time as marketing director he was credited by Blatter with building up FIFA reserves of 752 million Swiss francs ($612 million).

Valcke's career appeared to be in ruins when, in December 2006, FIFA said it had "parted company" with him and three other employees after a New York court ruled the marketing team had "lied repeatedly" during talks with MasterCard and Visa.

Frenchman Valcke later described his part in the negotiations as the biggest mistake of his life and said in an interview with the Independent newspaper: "You have the feeling everything is destroyed."

However, just eight months later he was back as FIFA's Secretary General, effectively the organisation's number two.

This came after an appeals court ordered the MasterCard case to be re-examined. But the two sides instead reached an out-of-court settlement, with FIFA agreeing to pay the credit card company $90 million in compensation.

"It is like a dream for me," said Valcke when he was reappointed in August 2007.

Asked about Valcke's predicament during a news conference here on Monday, Blatter simply shrugged his shoulders and declined to comment.

It was hardly the reassuring vote of confidence the Frenchman would have been hoping for.