Ever since Sepp Blatter won the FIFA presidential election in 1998, FIFA has become more and more like the mob. Bribes seem to have been widespread for years, and even Blatter’s election back in the 90s is rumored to be won by handing out secret envelopes with cash.
Swiss authorities apprehended several top FIFA names early Wednesday local time. The FIFA delegates were arrested on the request of the FBI after a 47-count indictment was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., and they are now looking at extradition to the United States. The FIFA personnel who has charges pending against them are Jack Warner, Mr. Li, Jeffrey Webb, Eugenio Figueredo, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Rafael Esquivel, José Maria Marin and Nicolás Leoz. There’s also charges against several sports-marketing executives.
This whole thing is a spiderweb of shady dealings that includes bribery, racketeering, money laundering and much more. FIFA is infested with greedy businessmen that doesn’t think about the well-being of the game of soccer, their number one priority is lining their own pockets.
Blatter has acted as the head of FIFA for 17 years and will most likely win re-election on Friday, which means he will sit for his fifth straight term as the FIFA President. Charges have not been brought against Blatter, but to assume that he would have nothing to do with all of this is very naive. You don’t lead an organization for almost two decades without knowing everything that goes on behind the curtain.
The Department of Justice issued a statement on its website regarding the indictments and the arrests that happened at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said Attorney General Lynch. “It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable. Today’s action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice – and we look forward to continuing to work with other countries in this effort.”
You didn’t have to be a conspiracy nut in order to figure that something was not right when FIFA awarded to 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Sure, there was talk about taking the tournament to the Middle East for the first time and all that good stuff, but the fact is that it’s not viable to play a tournament during the extreme heat of summer in Qatar, a nation that is currently in 99th place on the FIFA rankings. Awarding the tournament to Qatar was a very controversial decision and the tournament is scheduled to be played in winter instead of the traditional summer schedule.
It was a little less controversial to award Russia the 2018 World Cup, but seeing Russia’s problem with anti semitism, racism, and violence in the stands, there were better options than giving it to Vladimir Putin & Co. But if it turns out that both countries were awarded the World Cup through unjust means, then they should take the tournaments away from and assign a new country to host the 2018 tournament that has all the infrastructure in place, like England or Germany, and then do a new vote for the 2022 tournament.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the investigation proves that money was being exchanged in return for votes, and that the best bids didn’t win, but the ones with the deepest pockets did.
FIFA needs to clean house. Blatter should step down, because even if he didn’t have anything to do with all the blatant corruption and behind closed doors dealings with sponsors etc. it would show that his not fit to lead FIFA anymore.
“Today’s announcement should send a message that enough is enough,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Currie. “After decades of what the indictment alleges to be brazen corruption, organized international soccer needs a new start – a new chance for its governing institutions to provide honest oversight and support of a sport that is beloved across the world, increasingly so here in the United States. Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.”
Those words from Currie is something that all soccer supporters should stand behind. FIFA is supposed to help grow soccer around the world, and when funds are going into delegates pockets instead of helping develop the game and facilities for players of all ages, something needs to be done. And Blatter stepping down would be a good start.