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Under Sepp Blatter’s guidance and tutelage FIFA has turned into what many are calling a comically grotesque organization. He has been the president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or FIFA since June 8, 1998 and has been re-elected as President in 2002, 2007 and most recently in 2011.
There have been allegations thrown around for years of bribery, mismanagement, corruption and general decay inside the governing body of the largest sports association in the world, but it seems that finally these allegations are getting the proper respect they deserve. This is mostly due to the fact that many of FIFA’s official sponsors do not want any negative publicity and are asking for a proper investigation. Investigative journalists though, many of them from Great Britain, have been leading the charge since the vote took place in Zurich, in December, 2010.
This week Blatter has hit back while attending a speech for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) claiming that the British media wants to “destroy” football’s world governing body. Interestingly the CAF is one of the most corrupt areas of FIFA and a hotbed for allegations that FIFA members, specifically the former FIFA Executive Committee member (Exco) Mohamed bin Hammam, had paid for votes to secure his home country of Qatar’s bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Of course the Qatar bid committee has denied all such claims.
Blatter referenced that FIFA had to address anything that seemed like discrimination or racism in the allegations, which was essentially calling the British media racist for not wanting to hold the World Cup in Qatar, a state of mainly middle eastern race, and who England was vying against for the right to host one of the next two World Cups. The reality is that many people just want a fair voting process and a thoroughly thought out plan to how the world’s largest sporting event will be held. Instead of awarding the rights to a country whose average temperatures exceed 110 degrees fahrenheit during the summer months, making it virtually impossible to play sport outdoors. George Dyke the Football Association (FA) chairman was very upset after Blatter’s claims of racism in the British media and says that they were “totally unacceptable.”
Earlier in the speech the FIFA president tried to do some preemptive public relations for the comically grotesque organization by brining up the bonus payments each country will be receiving from the 2014 FIFA World Cup profits, a number that is expected to be around $4.5 billion in revenue. Blatter said he imagined everyone would be very happy with the bonuses they will be receiving after the tournament. In reality he made it worse for himself by not realizing the country who will be providing most of the bill, Brazil, will be left partially crippled economically after the event because of the massive amount of public money being used to build costly, unnecessary stadiums and infrastructure for transportation.
The CAF issued a statement threatening legal action against The Sunday Times after the Monday meeting. The report published by the Times claimed officials from 30 African football federations received various sorts of bribes in the forms of gifts, favors or cash from Bin Hammam in 2011. The CAF board was urged to file a lawsuit “so that the authors of this smearing and defamatory campaign against African football leaders are brought to the book.”
There are other coincidences as well surrounding the Qatar bid process such as trade deals between home nations of Exco members and Qatar. In 2010 Qatar’s state owned airline unveiled massively subsidized routes to Argentina and Brazil. Also the Emir of Qatar visited Paraguay to finalize one of the biggest trade deals in either countries history. All of this is legal because it is government business but who knows what is being said behind the scenes from the head’s of state to the FIFA board members. Incidentally all three South America Exco members, a Brazilian, an Argentinian and a Paraguayan voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.
Sponsors like Hyundai, Coca Cola, Budweiser, BP, Visa, Sony and Adidas have all begun calling for a full-scale investigation. Unfortunately that investigation will likely go through FIFA’s own Ethics Committee and not a third-party source who could give a more non-biased outlook upon the events.
Many also believed Blatter would step down next year, but it seems that the FIFA president believes he still has it in him to run another term. The current Union of European Football Association (UEFA) vice-president David Gill has spoken out to say that Sepp’s decision to run for FIFA president again in 2015 is “disappointing,” especially after he vowed to stand down before the next election after he won the 2011 vote.
These kind of allegations are an embarrassment to FIFA just days before the World Cup is set to kickoff in Brazil. If corruption is not enough, further escalation of violent protests in Sao Paulo seems inevitable as riot police tear-gassed over 250 people on Thursday June 5, 2014. Even if the tournament turns into a politically charged powder keg it seems that Mr. Blatter cannot get enough of the fame and fortune provided by the comically grotesque organization and will continue on his journey of self-aggrandizement.
By B. Taylor Rash