One of Fifa’s most senior executives, Fatma Samoura, has been reported to the organisation’s powerful ethics committee.
Samoura, who was appointed secretary general of football’s world governing body by its president Gianni Infantino in 2016, is accused of alleged breaches of its ethics code relating to “duty of disclosure, co-operation and reporting” and “conflicts of interest”.
The claims stem from allegations relating to Morocco’s bid to host the 2026 World Cup. The North African country wants to host the tournament but is up against a North American joint effort comprising Canada, the USA and Mexico.
Members of a Fifa World Cup evaluation taskforce – which recently visited the bidding countries – are said to have discovered an undeclared family link between Samoura – whose full name is Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura – and the former Liverpool forward El Hadji Diouf, who is working in an ambassadorial role for the Moroccan bid.
Both Samoura, 55, and Diouf are from Senegal. They are both now the subject of an ethics complaint.
A senior Fifa source has told BBC Sport the allegation is “tenuous”, while Samoura said she is “fully aware of this upcoming complaint” and has “a good idea who is conveying this message”.
She added: “The whole country of Senegal will laugh at Fifa Ethics… because everyone in my country knows the origin of El Hadji Diouf.”
The same senior source, who wishes to remain anonymous, also alleges Infantino “encouraged” the evaluation taskforce to find evidence that could block Morocco’s candidacy.
It is claimed Infantino was motivated to do this as he favours the rival North American bid given the enormous financial advantage it has over its African rival.
In response to the allegation a Fifa spokesperson told BBC Sport: “The bidding process for the 2026 Fifa World Cup has been designed to evaluate the bids against objective criteria and so avoid a return to the secret and subjective decisions of the past.
“The process is as fair, objective and transparent as it can get as demonstrated with the publication of the bid books, all bidding documents and the scoring system.
“The taskforce’s assessment is guided by clear and objective criteria and its report will be made public to guarantee full transparency of the process. The Fifa president is not involved in this process and he will not take part in the vote of the congress. These are facts and not ‘maybe’ or gossip.
“Fifa has been heavily criticised for how it conducted the selection of hosts in the past. It was our obligation to learn from this and leave no room for any doubt or subjectivity.
“Anyone criticising this approach should be able to say if they would prefer a return to the old ways.
“Allegations of a defamatory nature are unacceptable, especially when they come in a middle of a bidding process when calm, sense of responsibility and respect should prevail.”
Is the Morocco bid being undermined?
The Fifa 2026 bid evaluation taskforce – which recently visited North American and Moroccan cities – includes Samoura’s two deputies, Marco Villiger and former AC Milan player Zvonimir Boban.
Some Morocco bid supporters have suggested they are Infantino allies, and that that raises questions over the taskforce’s impartiality and independence from the Fifa administration.
There are further concerns over claims the Morocco bid team were only told of some eligibility criteria hours before their bid document had to be submitted, potentially weakening their submission.
The bidding process comes with Fifa facing a financial shortfall following years of dealing with expensive legal bills resulting from a US Department of Justice investigation into corrupt executives. It has also struggled to attract major sponsors to this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
In light of this, it is believed Infantino wants the North American bid to win given organisers’ claims it will generate around $5bn (£3.58bn) in economic activity and $2.1bn (£1.5bn) in ticket revenue alone.
The Swiss-Italian could yet face the prospect of being placed under an ethics investigation himself concerning the allegation he attempted to interfere in the 2026 bidding process although there is no evidence that a complaint has been made.
Fifa’s troubled past
The revelations come as the governing body is attempting to reform following a series of damaging political and financial scandals.
It culminated in police dawn raids at a luxury Zurich hotel in May 2015, the extradition of Fifa executives to face trials in the US and the eventual deposing of Sepp Blatter as the organisation’s long-serving president.
The decision over whom to award the 2026 World Cup could also be plunged into doubt following the claims.
The 2026 tournament is set to be the first World Cup to be allocated since the controversial decision to grant the 2018 edition to Russia and 2022 to Qatar.
Those choices have been mired in controversy ever since and are the subject of several ongoing criminal investigations – for example, former Fifa president Sepp Blatter has suggested there was an agreement in place for Russia to host the 2018 tournament before the vote took place.
Fifa radically overhauled its voting procedures as a result of the Russia/Qatar process, taking power away from a small number of leading executives and placing it in the hands of its 211 member associations. It also promised enhanced clarity, transparency and fairness when awarding its marquee event.
Morocco’s 2026 bid is gathering pace and is thought to stand a serious chance of winning the necessary 104 majority votes needed for victory.
A vote is scheduled to take place in Moscow on 13 June at Fifa’s annual congress, with the North American countries and Morocco the only contenders.