Four days after being re-elected for a fifth term as the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter shocked the world and resigned. The move comes just six days after the United States DOJ and FBI indicted 14 high ranking members of FIFA on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
Just a week ago, Blatter was on the record saying he would not postpone the FIFA Presidential election, which was held Friday, or withdraw from the race, as that would admit that he’s done something wrong. Tuesday, Blatter held a press conference where he resigned as President stating that FIFA needed “a profound restructuring.” If that’s not an admission of guilt I don’t know what is. Still this brings up a few questions.
Why is Blatter resigning now?
This is a big question that I don’t think we’ll ever actually have the answer to. Obviously, a lot has gone down over the past four days that we don’t know about. Last week, the DOJ and FBI made it a point to not discuss Blatter, as he was not one of the people indicted, but it was clear that Blatter was going to come under heavy investigation. It’s very possible that Blatter started to feel the pressure and saw law enforcement was starting to knock his door down and he decided he needed to run.
Sources told ABC news that Blatter is under investigation by the FBI as part of the probe that led to last week’s indictments. Now that the FBI has people in custody, those people will be looking to save themselves, which means possibly turning on Blatter, which would give the FBI all the ammo that they need to take him down.
The other likely outcome is that the main sponsors for FIFA finally stepped up and had enough of Blatter. As has been constantly pointed out, when FIFA was under the control of Sepp Blatter, the money kept rolling in, mainly because of FIFA’s sponsors. Whenever there was a story that made FIFA look bad, and boy were there plenty, the general feeling was that FIFA would not do anything as long as the money kept rolling in. Now it seems that the sponsors have had enough.
According to Darren Rovell of ESPN, the sponsor that likely led the charge was VISA, who had come out strongly in favor of reform in FIFA prior to the election, and remained silent after the election. While VISA may have led the charge, certainly other companies such as McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Budweiser may be behind helping push Blatter out the door.
What will be the immediate effects of this announcement?
Unfortunately not much. As Blatter announced, a special FIFA congress will convene to elect a new FIFA President…in 4-6 months.
The next question is: who will be the next president of FIFA? Will it be someone from the European and Western Hemisphere faction that wants change within FIFA? Or will it be someone from the Sepp Blatter mold who is happy with the current structure?
You would think the answer is obvious as FIFA needs a change from top to bottom, but unfortunately that may not be the way it plays out. It is for that reason Blatter was able to stay in power. There are far more tiny nations who are happy with the current structure (the one where they make a lot of money), then there are bigger nations that want change.
What about the 2018 and 2022 World Cups?
Despite allegations of a corrupt process, the 2018 World Cup will still be played in Russia. We’re too far along in the qualification process and the event is too near to really do anything about it. While there are building and worker safety concerns, Russia is still most prepared to host a World Cup.
The 2022 World Cup is a different story. For now, it’s hard to imagine the event being moved from Qatar. Unless it becomes a human rights issue.
By now we’ve all heard the slave-like conditions migrant workers are being put through to build the stadiums, and cities, for the Qatar World Cup. There have been countless probes looking into it, and the Qataris have banned journalists from reporting on the living and working conditions of their workers, many whom have already died and that number is expected to rise to over 4,000 by 2022.
If a new president who stands for reform and transparency is elected, this could be looked into, but it’s important to remember another six months will have passed and the more time that passes, the more likely it is that event cannot be moved.
However we should always remember that the United States is capable of hosting the event last minute, like it did with the 2003 Women’s World Cup. If we learned anything from Blatter’s announcement today, it’s never say never when it comes to FIFA.