September 14, 2012 / 9:30 AM / 8 years ago

Thai FA facing disbandment over alleged graft

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s Football Association could be forced to disband following allegations of corruption, a spokesman for a parliamentary committee looking into the issue said on Friday.

The FA of Thailand (FAT) could face an investigation over alleged tax evasion and for setting up the Thai Premier League as a profit-making arm of the group, said Supachai Chaisamut, a spokesman for the house corruption committee.

Worawi Makudi, the FAT’s president and a FIFA executive committee member since 1997, appeared before the committee on Thursday to give his explanations on financial transactions.

“If FAT is found to have deliberately set up the Thai Premier League for profit-making purposes the Thai Revenue Department will follow up the case. The FAT will then have a duty to withdraw the name of the football association, disband and set up again,” Supachai told Reuters.

Worawi said he was in discussions with his lawyers and would respond to the allegations at a news conference next week.

This is not the first time Worawi has been accused of corruption.

In 2011, FIFA launched a formal investigation after he was accused of spending $860,000 in football development grants for projects on land he personally owns. Soccer’s world governing body eventually cleared him of any wrongdoing.

In the latest accusations to hit the FAT president, Worawi and Thailand’s FA are alleged to have set up the Thai Premier League company to generate profits and authorizing Siam Sports Syndicate Pcl, a sports publishing company, to manage commercial benefits.

Under Thai civil law, the FAT is barred from seeking profits.

The FAT president was asked to submit documents showing the minutes of meetings held by the FAT that dealt with Thai Premier League Company, Siam Sports Syndicate and to produce balance sheets dating back five years for both companies by next week.

The issue is fast dividing Thai soccer fans who have taken sides in the dispute with some claiming personal grudges and allegiances are influencing the investigation.

“Some people on this committee want this to become a political issue but that is not what I want and that is not the aim of this investigation,” said Prompong Nopparit, vice chairman of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee.

Thailand’s top league underwent a massive revamp three years ago following a marketing blitz that brought in dozens of corporate sponsors and provided revenue for clubs to invest in foreign players and coaches.

At a packed news conference in Bangkok earlier this month former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson was named technical director of Thai Premier League club BEC Tero Sasana.

His appointment will be a much-needed boost to the Thai league as it struggles to make its mark against other teams in regional competitions.

(This story is corrected to clarify investigation yet to be launched)

Additional Reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Editing by Patrick Johnston

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