An investigation into corruption within world football organisation FIFA by freelance sports journalist Andrew Jennings has prompted an inquiry by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) into the claims.

The report by Jennings, who has been investigating the story for almost 10 years, was broadcast by BBC Panorama last night and made allegations of corruption against the footballing body, in particular claims that three FIFA officials had accepted bribes from a sports marketing company, International Sports and Leisure (ISL) that was awarded marketing rights for successive World Cups.

Issa Hayatou, head of African football and one of the alleged recipients of the secret payments, is a member of the IOC.

"The IOC has taken note of the allegations made by BBC Panorama and will ask the programme makers to pass on any evidence they may have to the appropriate authorities," the committee says in a report by AFP.

"The IOC has a zero tolerance [sic] against corruption and will refer the matter to the IOC Ethics Commission."

Last night's broadcast has been criticised by some viewers for its timing, as later this week at a meeting in Zurich FIFA will decide whether England will host the 2018 World Cup. But Panorama's editors have defended the investigation.

"Panorama is not in the habit of raking over old coals for the sake of it; nor are we intent on undermining England's bid for the 2018 World Cup," says Panorama editor Tom Giles in a blog post.

"I am a football fan ... So I'm well aware of how much winning the right to hold the World Cup means to people. I share everyone's passion for seeing the tournament played here. But if some of the people who are making the final decision are corrupt - if there is a suggestion that they can be bought - how fair can the process be?"

In a statement made on its website today, FIFA does not directly refer to Panorama's programme, but instead to "recent media reports", which it referred back to a court case in 2008 that found several employees guilty of embezzlement or accounting offences.

"The matters concerning the case 'ISL/ISMM' which are referred to date back many years ago and were investigated by the relevant authorities in Switzerland," the statement reads.

"In its verdict of 26 June 2008, the Criminal Court of Zug had not convicted any FIFA Officials. It is therefore important to stress again the fact that no FIFA officials were accused of any criminal offence in these proceedings.

"Furthermore, it is important to recall that the decision was made on matters which took place prior to the year 2000 and there has been no court conviction against FIFA. The investigation and the case are definitely closed."

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