The extent of the FIFA corruption scandal
As the investigation into corruption within FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) continues, Miles Howell reports on how it has affected the sport.
The Brazilian footballer Pelé once referred to association football as ‘the beautiful game’. The term he used then could not be further from the reality today. At the moment, football’s reputation has been marred as the extent of FIFA’s (the international governing body of football) corruption is revealed.
Last month, the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, was suspended for ninety days after criminal proceedings into corruption allegations were opened against him. His vice-president, Michel Platini, and FIFA’s Secretary General Jerome Valcke were also suspended. Blatter, 79, has been in power since 1999 and had won another term as President earlier this year before announcing his intent to step down days later. This came amidst the public arrests of several high-up FIFA officials after one of their own, Chuck Blazer, had acted as an informant of the FBI and the IRS. The suspension of Platini comes as a blow to the English FA, who are vocal critics of the corruption within FIFA, as he had been their favourite to replace Blatter this coming February at the next presidential election. Both Platini and Blatter have appealed against their suspensions, with the former describing it as ‘farcical’.
Now, it is worth pointing out that Blatter, Platini and Valcke have not actually been convicted of the charges against them and may find their suspensions overruled. However, the FIFA scandal this year has undeniably tainted football’s reputation. In fact, you could argue whether there was ever a time when the organisation was faultless. Corruption has been linked to FIFA for years but nothing has been done about it, as shown by Blatter’s re-election despite the world of football crying out for an overhaul of the system and the people that govern it. His subsequent announcement to step down days after being re-elected where he claimed he would be the one to cleanse FIFA is almost comical.
The 42-page report released by FIFA – which was based on US attorney, Michael J. Garcia’s 430-page investigative analysis of the ongoing scandal – was, of course, a sham that was denounced by Garcia. The World Cup 2018 and 2022 winning bids for Russia and Qatar respectively went unchallenged despite numerous claims of bribery and foul play. Absurdly, Russia was pardoned in Garcia’s report after they refused to release relevant data to investigators claiming the computers they used for the World Cup bid were rented.
Qatar, a small country on the Arabian Peninsula, raised eyebrows when it was selected, as the country has little history of football and would be far too hot to stage the tournament in the traditional summertime. Claims of double-dealing have emerged about the winning South African bid in 2010 and the German winning bid of 2006. Despite all this it looks like Qatar and Russia will host the next two World Cups despite calls for a re-vote.
Whoever becomes the next FIFA President will have a seemingly impossible task on their hands to remove the long-standing blemish of corruption from football. It would be difficult for whoever this person is, be it Platini or someone else, to do a worse job than their predecessor. For all football fans out there who watch aghast at the antics of FIFA, they must hope someone is willing to make their sport a ‘beautiful game’ again.