Corruption within the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) was an open secret. It was said many times that the unusual power granted to this organization by managing the world’s most popular game gave it a high degree of impunity. It was the U.S justice system who had to bell the cat.
In controlling this sport, FIFA was able to create a parallel universe where it reigned without contest. For example, it demanded governments worldwide not to meddle with their local organizations and not to take legal actions against them, under penalty of disaffiliation. Thus, it fell to each head of state to explain to the people why their country was excluded from world cups and international tournaments.
That’s why it came as a surprise the presentation of 46 charges against top international soccer officials, notably CONCACAF’s Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner, and CONMEBOL’s Nicolás Leoz. The claim’s description of the indictees’ modus operandi, the organization they manage and the companies and individuals involved in the commercialization of soccer, appears more like a mafia than a sports entity.
For years there have been rumors in the soccer world about corrupt activities in the selling of tournaments’ TV rights, or vote buying in the selection of World Cup hosts. The latest designation of Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 seemed blatant, a first impression that only grew as details emerged.
The Justice Department says that this is only the beginning of the investigation, leaving open the possibility that the inquiry could reach its president Sepp Blatter. It’s hard to believe that all those irregularities happened without the knowledge of his predecessor Joao Havelange. The lawsuit mentions two generations of corruption in the organization.
It is only fair and right that Blatter steps down. However, he is clinging to his post more than ever. Nobody doubts that this Friday he will surely be reelected for a fifth period, although it remains to be seen that, after this investigation, he makes it to the end of the four years.
Soccer fans around the world deserve a transparent organization in which their money helps improve this sport instead of filling the pockets of corrupt officials. But first, a clean-up inside the FIFA is needed, starting with Blatter.