Nine FIFA executives and five corporate executives have been indicted in an investigation by the United States D.O.J and FBI. A total of 14 people were arrested by plain clothes Swiss police in Zurich early Wednesday morning. They are facing charges of wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering. The high ranking officials were in Zurich to attend FIFA’s annual meeting. Those who were arrested will be extradited to the United States where they will be prosecuted in American courts.
For many people, this has been a very confusing story. Here are the main things you need to know.
The main point of the indictment alleges FIFA corruption in it’s awarding of World Cup bids, marketing deals, and broadcast deals for those tournaments.
CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, the governing body of North and Central America and the Caribbean, and the South American governing body, are the main point of the US’s indictment, as there are alleged bribes regarding several CONCACAF and CONMEBOL tournaments such as the Gold Cup, Copa America, CONCACAF Champions League, South American Club Championship and the Copa Libertadores (USA Today).
The New York Times has reported that four sports marketing executives from the United States and South America were accused of paying over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major soccer tournaments.
The indictment alleges corruption and bribery in regards to awarding the 2010 World Cup to South Africa, the 2018 World Cup to Russia, and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
The arrests took place in Switzerland but the defendants will be extradited to the United States. The agreement between the US and Switzerland allows Switzerland to refuse extradition to the US in regards to tax crimes, but they will extradite people in regards to general criminal law.
Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, was NOT named in the indictment. FIFA spokesman Walter de Gregorio has said that Blatter “was not involved in any alleged wrongdoing.” Blatter is seeking re-election for an unprecedented fifth term as president in FIFA’s election scheduled to be held on Friday. FIFA has said that this election will continue to go on as planned.
Swiss authorities are also in the midst of a separate investigation into FIFA. The Swiss and the United States have cooperated with each other, but there are two separate investigations.
What will be the fallout from all this?
It’s way too early to tell what will happen next in regards to FIFA. One thing is clear though, this is a lot bigger then any of us thought.
For a long time everyone within the soccer community, and most of the world, has known of large scale corruption within FIFA. What we all thought though was that this corruption mainly had to do with corruption in regards to FIFA’s presidential election and the awarding of World Cup bids.
What we learned today is that it goes way beyond that, with media companies and marketing companies now also being involved. The indictment alleges large scale bribery in regards to sponsorships, media, and broadcast rights to CONCACAF and CONMEBOL tournaments such as the Gold Cup, Copa America, and especially the Copa America Centenario. There were no names mentioned in the indictment but it does make you wonder if broadcasters such as Fox or BeIN sports (the rights holders to those tournaments in the United States) are players here. Remember many of these alleges deals went down on US soil, which is why the FBI and DOJ have gotten involved.
When news broke of this story last night, it seemed like a lot of US fans began dreaming that if FIFA went down in a corruption scandal there would be a revote for the 2022 World Cup, and that the United States could end up hosting the tournament after all.
I’m here to tell you not to get your hopes up. As of now, FIFA is saying there will not be a re-vote for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. That’s the first thing; the second issue is, according to my interpretation of what I’ve read and heard, that the United States is starting to look less and less innocent here then we may have thought.
When there’s been alleged bribery for the location of major tournaments such as the Gold Cup and Copa America Centenario, and then you realize that every Gold Cup since 2001 has either been hosted or co-hosted by the United States, who will also be hosting the Copa America Centenario, it’s only natural to start connecting dots and wondering if the United States has been involved in the bribery.
The biggest reason why we have no idea what the fallout from this indictment will be is Sepp Blatter. As I mentioned earlier, Blatter was not mentioned in the indictment. This Friday Blatter will be seeking his fifth presidential term in FIFA’s election, an election that FIFA is still planning on having and that Blatter is widely expected to win.
With Blatter in power it’s hard to see any change coming to FIFA, especially since supposedly Blatter is the most corrupt man in all of FIFA. This isn’t news to anyone, we all know this. The issue is Sepp Blatter is remarkably good at keeping his hands clean. He has a whole laundry list of other people who do his dirty work for him. Therefore unless one of the people already indicted turns and delivers a tell-all to the authorities, there is likely no evidence against Blatter at the moment.
To make matters trickier, those officials who were arrested in Zurich this morning have the ability to fight the extradition, and it has been reported that at least six of them will do so. While it’s great that the world’s organizations are finally coming after FIFA, we shouldn’t be expecting any immediate changes to come of this.