Last month, shortly before the election for the FIFA presidency, the FBI declared to the world that FIFA are a corrupt organisation. Rotten to the core. A criminal racketeering organisation. Sheesh. Tell us something we didn’t already know. I can almost hear you say, “Ah, but now we’ve got the evidence!”. Sheesh, because awarding Qatar the rights to host a world cup wasn’t cast iron evidence? That the two most corrupt nations in the bidding process, Russia and Qatar, won the rights to both upcoming world cups? They are different types of evidence to that presented by the FBI, I know.
There’s a lot of optimism that the criminal investigations by US and Swiss authorities will prevail in bringing the criminal element within FIFA to justice, and force the organisation to reform into a transparent body, with integrity and fairness embedded within all processes. Alas, I am not so optimistic. I wrote a post back in 2012 after the awarding of the next two world cups. I had this to say…
FIFA has long been known to be a corrupt little club of tin pot dictators. This morning they added further evidence of that. The organisation doesn’t simply need to be cleansed, but closed and replaced with a more open, transparent and representative body.
Here’s the problem as I see it. Within days of the arrests, 133 of 209 football associations from around the world ignored common sense and voted to re-elect Sepp Blatter as president. That’s 133 associations who chose to re-elect a man who has been running the organisation as a personal fiefdom for nearly two decades, sanctioning corrupt practices, actively protecting the guilty and lining the pockets of his supporters. I knew he was corrupt. They knew he was corrupt. The world knows he’s corrupt. Yet they voted for him. What future is there for a body with a membership with that is so openly accepting of such a president?
Russia and Qatar bought their world cups. I feel confident enough to state that as fact. If the direct evidence doesn’t surface, it’s because it’s been destroyed, and destroyed well. Russia have already disclosed that every email ever sent regarding their bid has been destroyed. But it’s quite clear how one wins the rights to a world cup. So we have a situation. If either Russia or Qatar are allowed to host the 2018 and 2022 cups, then it is clear that continuing corruption is being tolerated. If there is any sort of evidence, there will almost certainly be law suits brought to the courts by the losing bidders. With the amount of money at stake, a loss in the court room could, should, bankrupt FIFA.
If evidence arises showing the tournaments were bought, and Russia and Qatar are stripped, then they will no doubt also fight their case through the courts, in a bid to have their status as hosts reinstated. Again, potential bankruptcy for FIFA beckons. And in either event, I predict a bitter and destructive civil war within FIFA. In my opinion, FIFA is done for. It’s position at the top of the football family is untenable. I still believe it needs to be shut down and replaced. Let Qatar and Russia pursue a defunct organisation through the courts for money that isn’t there and for the rights to host tournaments that don’t exist.
Replaced with what? Isn’t that the ten million dollar question. A new home is an obvious starter as Switzerland is a land too comfortable with keeping secrets. It should remain in Europe though. Whether in a sporting powerhouse such as England or Germany, or a more neutral nation, such as Belgium, Denmark or Switzerland. It doesn’t matter much. The rest is basic stuff. A charter that clearly defines its role with regulations that ensure transparency.
But still, a problem remains. The membership of the organisation probably won’t change much. And the membership, and its dubious voting habits, are as big a part of the problem as Sepp Blatter and his cronies are. The rest of the world doesn’t want European dominance. However, Europe (or most of it) doesn’t want to be part of the status quo. The danger, some might suggest, is a fracturing of the sport into numerous different bodies. I don’t think it is a danger. Because whether the rest of the world likes it or not, Europe does dominate football. European money, trophies and the domestic leagues are world football. Any body not including Europe is doomed from day one.
Does any one come out of this with any credit whatsoever? I’m happy to say that the UK does, to a certain degree. The FA have been outspoken. But most importantly, the British press, tawdry as it can often be, has for many years exposed FIFA corruption and kept the pressure on. The USA too can claim the moral high ground. Sure, their own FIFA rep was one of the most corrupt of the bunch. But at least the authorities got their man, and took the rest out with him. But it’s hard to find much in the way of good guys beyond those two countries. Oh. Except for me. Because I told you so. Years ago. I know, I wasn’t the only one, but why would I pass up the opportunity to gloat?
Who comes out of this with egg on their faces, besides the Executive Committee? Michel Platini would like to position himself to take over the presidency, I’m sure. But he voted for Qatar. His reasons for doing so scarcely matter. He’s tainted. The whole world of football currently has egg on its face. And as for Blatter. Well, as I write this, he is still actually president, and is planning to remain in the role till nearly Christmas. I sincerely hope his plan to hang around for so long are interrupted. One of his allies was fired from FIFA today for telling a joke. “The Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, the director of communications and the general secretary are all sitting in a car – who is driving? The police.” That’s a joke just waiting to happen.