Corruption allegations around FIFA are as old as the now over 30 year leadership of it’s newly re-elected president Sepp Blatter.
FIFA under his leadership has been compared by insiders and outsider alike to the Mafia. The charges are that FIFA and/or it’s officials and/or member organisations have for many many years been receiving huge financial benefits in exchange for favours. The favours being awarding hosting rights for the world cup or other tournaments and easier access into the world cup. And new revelations emerge almost daily. On the eve of last weeks conference 14 people most of them top ranking officials and members of the executive were arrested in Zürich being indicted for corruption, bribery and money laundering by the US Justice Department. A parallel investigation into corruption in connection with the rewarding of the hosing rights for the next two world cups in Russia and Qatar are on-going in Switzerland.
John Oliver again has the best analysis of FIFA and the last world cup in Brazil.
Including the power of FIFA to have laws changed in allegedly sovereign countries to the benefit of their sponsors, the slave labour problem in Qatar leading to thousands of migrant workers being killed on world cup building sites by the time the construction is finished, the non-for-profit tax-free status of the organisation with over a billion US dollars in the bank and FIFA demanding that host countries waste huge amounts of money and resources on stadiums never to be used again even if these countries have enormous problems with poverty.
All this is not news of course and if you care to google FIFA or Sepp Blatter you’ll find thousands of items almost all negative. Even Prince William in his capacity as president of the UK football association just fired a salvo at FIFA.
As reported in the media the FBI said it had uncovered 24 years of “brazen corruption … undisclosed illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes” by Fifa officials, and that corruption in the organisation was “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted”.
The US inquiry alleges South Africa was awarded the 2010 World Cup as a result of bribery, with the head of its IRS Criminal Investigations division accusing Fifa of running a “World Cup of fraud”.
Sepp Blatter and FIFA have become synonymous with bribery and corruption.
I never believed I would say that but in this case I am glad that the US is playing the world policeman as no other seems to be powerful enough to take on FIFA.
The man at the centre of course sees it differently accepting no responsibility for the beast he created saying that he cannot watch everybody all the time.
However, what happened since last week’s re-election of Blatter to the presidency of FIFA really blew my mind. Blatter in response to the criticism and the fact that he faced opposition for the first time in over ten years issued an ominous warning of future relations he stated: “I forgive but I do not forget when it comes to persons.”
One has to take this sentence in slowly like a glass of vintage wine and swirl it around your pallet to appreciate the full meaning of it.
This sentence and the thinking behind it have not been heard in civil society in any comparable context. It is unheard off a politician saying something like it after being elected against opposition, a business leader after opposition at an AGM or any other democratically elected leader threatening his opponents like this. One has to take the parts in separately: I forgive i.e. you can kiss my ring. The thinking behind it is that opposing Mr Blatter and citing corruption charges is something, which needs to be forgiven by the man himself. On planet Blatter who does he think he is ?
I do not forget when it comes to persons is clearly a warning of rather a threat.
Facing down his critics, Blatter raised the prospect of growing conflict between UEFA, European football’s governing body, and his main group of support in the African and Asian football confederations.
“It is a hate that comes not just from one person at UEFA, it comes from the UEFA organisation that cannot understand that in 1998 I became president.”
In response to growing calls for UEFA to boycott the next World Cup and demands that Fifa reruns the vote to pick the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, Blatter accused the “English media and the American movement” of conspiring against him.
There is no precedent in civil society for this kind of language and thinking. It is clearly the language and thinking of a crime boss and a wounded and therefore dangerous one at that.
Then the scenes of Blatter’s supporters, all paragons of un-corruptibility mainly from Africa and the Caribbean sucking up to him after the election fitted the picture of the coterie of a Mafia don.
Another sign of what is happening at FIFA are the comments in the media about the principled decision of the New Zealand football association to vote against Blatter being called “brave“. The subsequent reporting that Oceania will not get direct entry into the next world cup was interpreted as punishment for that brave/bad behaviour. We are being conditioned to accept that this is how things are at FIFA and there seems to be nothing, which can be done about it. Like : There is no alternative.
Which brings me to the question : Is Sepp Blatter’s FIFA a disease or is it just a symptom of our – greed is good – neoliberal system ? Is it a coincidence that Blatter’s creation has run in parallel with the Thatcher/Reagan/Rogernomics revolution ?
The more I think about it it appears to me that Blatter’s FIFA is more than just a crime syndicate. It is not deviant but rather symptomatic of the system we all have been living under over the last 30 plus years.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if it was the US justice system taking it/him down.