In the second installment of Calling the Shots, Evan Planchon looks at the on-going corruption scandal in one of the biggest sporting organizations in the world: FIFA.
The game of football has brought peace, collaboration and excitement on a global scale. The World Cup, held every four years, is the most popular major sporting event in the world, with over 260 million spectators. Entire nations are united under the game that many describe as a beautiful artistic expression.
Unfortunately, the world of football has recently been severely damaged by numerous corruption scandals involving the governing body FIFA and its questionable leader Sepp Blatter. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), whose headquarters is in Zurich, is under crisis and in complete chaos since the FBI and Swiss authorities arrested 14 FIFA officials and executives on serious corruption charges back in May.
All 14 members have been dismissed of their functions and are awaiting trial as the U.S Department of Justice has concrete evidence against the former FIFA members who pleaded guilty to accepting over $150 million worth of bribes.
The briberies were linked to lucrative television rights contracts in 2010, which encouraged authorities to focus their profound investigations on Sepp Blatter himself and the bidding process for the 2018 Russia and 2022 Qatar World Cup.
Blatter is well-known for talking his way into trouble. In 2013, Blatter suggested that, despite strong evidence, racism did not exist in football. In a recent PR blunder, he caused outraged for suggesting that female football would be more popular if only the players wore tighter shorts to attract a wider audience. Blatter, who took charge of FIFA in 1998, was accused in June and has since been under investigation for corruption, criminal mismanagement and misappropriation charges. The solid accusations came a few days after Blatter retained his position as President for another term at the FIFA elections. The shocking events and accusations lead to public anger, causing Blatter to announce his resignation and forcing new elections for the FIFA presidency to be held in February 2016.
The most serious accusation against Blatter was that he secured a $10 million deal with former South African President Thabo Mbeki, which U.S. prosecutors believe was a bribe to guarantee the 2010 World Cup was hosted by South Africa.
Blatter is also under the microscope of U.S. prosecutors for awarding the 2022 World Cup to the small but rich Gulf state of Qatar back in 2010. The award was majorly contested and questioned by football experts, fans and players who did not understand how an extremely hot and dry country with strict religious rules (such as a ban on alcohol) would be able to host a major sports event. Qatar is today building stadiums and infrastructure expected to cost $6 billion, however, many cases of modern slavery have emerged after hundreds of workers died building the stadiums. Rumors of substantial corruption between FIFA and Qatar emerged in 2010 but with no concrete evidence. The U.S. and Swiss authorities are now looking closely at any possible suspect transactions between the two parties.
What happens if Blatter leaves?
The candidate who is expected to win the upcoming elections by a majority of votes and support from global football organizations is the former French national icon Michel Platini. The current UEFA president, who immediately demanded the resignation of Blatter, believes that an entire restructuring of FIFA is required.
However, like Blatter, Platini is also under investigation for receiving an unreported and unexplained financial transaction from FIFA in 2011. Reports state that Blatter alerted the authorities to this unexplained transaction in order to disturb Platini’s chances at the upcoming FIFA elections.
The scandal took a turn for the worse this month when Hans-Joachim Eckert, judge of the FIFA Ethics Committee, released his decision to suspend Blatter, Platini and FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke for a period of 90 days. The suspensions were allocated to facilitate the on-going corruption investigation concerning the FIFA top officials in question. All three members are provisionally ‘banned’ from the sport and must refrain from any involvement related to football.
Blatter, who has possibly left the FIFA headquarters once and for all, has appealed the decision, but most importantly, Platini, the leading candidate for the FIFA elections, is in serious trouble as his suspension could damage his campaign for presidency; and there is great uncertainty over his eligibility to run in February 2016.
The upcoming weeks are crucial as the future of one of the biggest sporting organizations in the world hangs in the balance. Only time will tell how much these scandals will affect football and the organization behind it, but what is certain is that fans and players want the sport of football to reclaim its original beauty and escape from the darkest corruption case the sport has ever witnessed.