Time for Fifa to show its teeth
The ethics investigation into suspended Fifa executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam will provide the biggest test so far of Sepp Blatter's re-election promise to clean up the disgraced governing body.
Although Bin Hammam denies any wrongdoing he is widely expected to be banned from all football following Friday's hearing in Zurich. But developments in Africa have raised questions over Fifa's enforcement of previous bans against two other football officials punished for breaching its ethics code.
Former Fifa Exco members Slim Aloulou, of Tunisia, and Amadou Diakite, of Mali, were both banned from worldwide football activity after they were accused of accepting bribes to vote for Morocco's failed bid for the 2010 World Cup. The allegations were part of the Sunday Times newspaper Insight investigation into Fifa which led to a total of six officials being banned including, at the time of the ethics hearing last November, two exisiting members of the Fifa executive committee.
Aloulou was banned for two years while Diakite was banned for three years. Both had their punishments reduced by a year each following an appeal in February.
And yet, despite these bans, the Confederation for African Football (Caf), has listed both men on a number of their committees for the period 2011 to 2013. The story was revealed by African journalist Osasu Obayiuwana for the Nigerian newspaper Next on Sunday.
It is not yet known whether Bin Hammam will attend Friday's hearing in Zurich
Fifa says it has told Caf to clarify the situation. In a statement it added: "Fifa has asked Caf to ensure that, during the period of their suspension, the names of Slim Aloulou and Amadou Diakite are not published in any Caf committee list or, alternatively, are marked as 'banned from taking part in any football-related activity' on such lists during this period".
But it does seem an alarming oversight on Caf's part given the level of publicity the cases attracted. Which begs the question: What will Fifa do if the names of Diakite and or Aloulou remain on those lists? Fifa says it cannot speculate on any action it might take.
With Jack Warner's role in the Trinidad bribery scandal now beyond the reach of Fifa following his resignation from all football positions, the focus is now on Bin Hammam and Friday's ethics hearing.
According to leaks of the report into the case by former FBI director Louis Freeh, there is no smoking gun which links Bin Hammam to the alleged act of handing over the cash to Carribean Football Union officials. But the feeling inside Fifa is that the incriminating evidence is so strong - the committee's intial report on the case found compelling prima facie evidence of bribery - that Bin Hammam will be banned.
So will Bin Hammam turn up on Friday to defend himself? Or will he choose to duck the session, paving the way for suspension in absentia and leaving his lawyers to argue over process and set up an appeal to the Swiss courts?
Blatter knows that with his and Fifa's reputation still on the line, this is not a time for the ethics committee to appear toothless.