FIFA, the governing body for football (or soccer as we call it in my home countries of the U.S. and Japan), has been in the spotlight lately for corruption. I once noted to my students in class that FIFA is probably the second most corrupt governing body in sport after the International Olympic Committee (IOC). I might have to retract this statement after the latest round of corruption and allegations which have come out. In a previous post I noted the potential scandal of buying votes to choose the host for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The newest round of scandal has occurred because of the election race for the Presidency of FIFA. Current FIFA President Sepp Blatter is running for re-election, his opponent in this election is Mohamed Bin Hammam who is a FIFA vice-president and the head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). As the election approached there was some talk of Bin Hammam having bribed people to vote for him, Bin Hammam said that Blatter was doing the same thing, CONCACAF head Jack Warner(who is also a FIFA vice-president as well) was also indicated in the whole mess. Details indicate that Warner handed out $40,000 bundles of cash to Caribbean Football members at a meeting, Blatter is accused of giving a million dollars to CONCACAF for them to “use as they please.”
FIFA’s ethics panel examined the cases of these three individuals. Bin Hammam, who had already pulled out of the running for FIFA President because of this incident, was suspended from football related activities along with Jack Warner. Their ban is a temporary one, which could be lifted or made longer pending the further findings of the ethics panel. Sepp Blatter, on the other hand, was let off free without any sanctions. The suspicions of whether the ethics panel can be trusted is already being widely discussed. Bin Hammam and Warner have also hit out against their suspensions. Bin Hammam stated:
“…I also indicated that at the Miami CONCACAF Congress on May 3rd, Mr. Blatter made a gift of one million USD to CONCACAF to spend as it deems fit. This annoyed President Michel Platini who was present and he approached Secretary General Jerome Valcke complaining that Mr Blatter had no permission from the Finance Committee to make this gift to which Jerome replied that he will find the money for Mr Blatter.
So, what is the aftermath? FIFA is supposedly paying more attention to corruption (so they claim), and Sepp Blatter will most likely be elected to serve as the ruler of FIFA yet again. As a friend of mine noted, this seems like something you would expect from a dictatorship. That same friend in the comments to a previous post noted that he thinks that some countries should break away from FIFA and start a new federation.
Former IOC vice-president Dick Pound has now made similar statements, basically noting that countries may form a break away association if FIFA doesn’t handle this mess quickly. Sort of ironic hearing that from a former IOC official.
So can FIFA survive? I think they can. I think Blatter will be back in charge ruling with an iron fist and claiming more transparency. However, FIFA is not in the clear, if anything more and more questions are being raised, and I can imagine a lot of angry countries who lost out on the World Cup bidding process wanting some form of retribution. I’ll be interested to see how this saga continues.