|Blatter, the Fifa president, has called the Sunday Times interview 'entrapment' and the lowest form of journalism [EPA]
Fifa has fined and banned two of its executive committee members following an investigation into allegations that they offered to sell their votes in support of a country bidding to host the 2018 World Cup.
Reynald Temarii, a Tahitian, and Nigeria's Amos Adamu allegedly told Sunday Times journalists posing as lobbyists that they would endorse the bids to host the World Cup in return for large sums of money.
Announcing the results of the investigation in the Swiss city of Zurich on Thursday, Claudio Sulser, chairman of Fifa's ethics committee, said: "Six decisions have been taken on corruption charges, due to the violation of the basic code of ethics."
Adamu has been forbidden from engaging in any form of football activities for three years, and he will be fined about $10,000. Temarii has been banned from football activities for one year and fined just over $5,000.
Both men were suspended temporarily last month pending the full investigation by the ethics committee.
Collusion: insufficient proof
Sulser said the ethics panel "did not find sufficient" evidence to back the allegation that some bidding countries, namely, Qatar and Spain-Portugal, colluded.
England, Russia and joint bids by Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium are in the running to host the 2018 World Cup while Australia, the US, Japan, Qatar and South Korea are bidding for 2022.
Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons, reporting from Zurich, said that all eyes are on the December 2 vote where the Fifa executive members are expected to decide on the hosting nations for both World Cups.
"There is zero tolerance towards this and we will see how it will unfold." he said, noting that "Fifa's president [Sepp Blatter] has called the newspaper interview 'entrapment' and the lowest form of journalism".
Sunday Times journalist Jonathan Calvert, who participated in the newspaper's undercover investigation, told Al Jazeera on Thursday that he believed his paper had conducted an ethical investigation, within the paper's own "journalistic code" and that while the paper welcomed the outcome of the Fifa investigation, "it was difficult to work out" what Fifa was saying in its ruling.
"I think what we found during our three-month investigation was that there's an awful lot of wheeling and dealing going on ... that the voting process was not about which is the best place to have a World Cup, the voting process was about who could get what for voting in a certain way," said Calvert.
A report released on Wednesday by Fifa's six-member technical panel highlighted issues with all of the bidding nations, with the heat being the chief concern in Qatar.
Adamu was apparently caught on camera meeting with reporters pretending to be working for the US, in which he offered a "guarantee" to vote for the US bid in the 2018 event in return for $800,000 for a personal project.
According to the Sunday Times, Adamu, who is the president of the West African Football Union, said the money he requested was intended to pay for four football stadiums in Nigeria, but asked that it be paid to him personally.
"Certainly, if you are to invest that, that means you also want the vote," Adamu was reported as saying.
He said that the payments should be in two stages, half now and half after the vote on who would be the World Cup's host country on December 2, in which neither Adamu nor Temarii will participate.
But Simmons said the conclusion of Fifa's investigation, "really makes you wonder about this whole debate on corruption."
While Fifa has acknowledged that Adamu and Temarii breached its code of ethics, its loyalty code and its code of confidentiality, it has stopped short of finding its two officials guilty of corruption.
"Claudio Sulser was effectively trying to turn the debate into, really, a code of ethics in journalism rather than a code of ethics in football," said Simmons.
"But really, the open debate now is can Fifa, which is not like a multi-national company - it's huge, it's almost like a multi-national government - can it really investigate itself?"
Temarii and Adamu have both denied the allegations and said that the interview was a set-up.
The UK newspaper, which has been accused by Fifa, said Simmons, "of twisting the facts" also reported that Adamu had agreed with another nation to back their bid in the 2022 World Cup contest.
The paper is expected to release a documentary on the case just days before the December 2 decision.