FIFA will investigate reports that a former general secretary of the organisation identified top officials he claimed could take money in return for votes in the race to host the football World Cup,

Michel Zen-Ruffinen stepped down as FIFA general secretary in 2002 after losing a power struggle with Sepp Blatter

Michel Zen-Ruffinen is alleged to have told undercover reporters what it would take to win the backing of some of the members of the FIFA executive committee who will vote on who should stage the 2018 and 2022 tournaments in Zurich on December 2.

The reports appeared in the Sunday Times and were supported by secret footage apparently with undercover reporters, who were posing as lobbyists.

Zen-Ruffinen, 51, allegedly suggests some of the members can be influenced by money, another by "ladies,'' while another was "the biggest gangster you will find on earth.''

Zen-Ruffinen allegedly adds that the Spain-Portugal bid to host the World Cup in 2018, for which England are also bidding, has struck a deal with Qatar to exchange votes, although Qatar have denied the allegations.

FIFA had already agreed to investigate the issue of vote buying after similar allegations last week resulting in the suspension of Nigerian FIFA executive Amos Adamu, who allegedly guaranteed his vote for 500,000.

But these new claims pile further pressure on FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who in May will again run to remain in office at the age of 74. As it stands, he will run unopposed.

A FIFA official confirmed that the new allegations would come under the same investigation as the one already launched by the ethics committee last Wednesday when its chairman, Claudio Sulser, said: "We are determined to have zero tolerance for any breach of the code of ethics.''

Zen-Ruffinen, a lawyer, worked for 16 years at football's world governing body before falling out with Blatter.

Zen-Ruffinen has claimed many of his comments were simply "impressions'' of the goings-on inside FIFA circles and that he had "exaggerated'' comments to keep the businessmen interested.

The 2018 contest to host the World Cup is between England, Russia and the joint bids of Belgium-Holland and Spain-Portugal. The 2022 race involves the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Qatar.