Crisis? What is a crisis? We are not in a crisis. We are only in some difficulties.” — Sepp Blatter, May 2011
For years, rumors of bribes and corruption have plagued FIFA. Last summer, those rumors were all but confirmed when the US Department of Justice indicted 14 current and former FIFA officials after an investigation by the FBI. These individuals were charged with “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption.
In all, the indictment listed 47 counts covering 24 years of corruption. Meanwhile, the Swiss launched their own investigation, honing in on then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his UEFA rival, Michel Platini. The pair was found guilty of a scheme involving a $2 million “disloyal payment” paid to Platini. Blatter has subsequently resigned, and both are banned from the sport for years.
Other FIFA scandals in recent years have centered on selection — who would host World Cup events, who would receive broadcast rights. Billions of dollars were at stake, and massive bribes alleged. For example, the indictment accused the government of South Africa of paying a $10 million bribe to host the 2010 World Cup. According to a report on CBSNews.com, the bribe money, which was characterized as a “charitable contribution,” landed in the bank account controlled by former FIFA VP Jack Warner.
Just $10 million? That’s chump change. A sports marketing firm reportedly paid $150 million to secure contracts to sell FIFA broadcasting rights.
These are but a few of the many, many allegations of bribery, racketeering, and corruption that FIFA has been accused of since last summer.
Now that the rumors have been formally brought to light, and some officials are being held accountable, the reality sinks in… For 24 years, probably longer, backroom dealings, envelopes stuffed with cash, and a culture of corruption have slowly tarnished the game. Our beloved sport, football, has been harmed, perhaps irreparably.
We will always wonder, how much did this country pay in bribes to host this event? Who benefitted from the millions of dollars handed under the table? Who’s getting obscenely rich?
In a continent where widespread corruption, bloody conflicts, devastating diseases, and squandered resources claim the lives, livelihood, and quality of life of our citizens, the FIFA scandal is yet another slap in our collective faces. We’re all too familiar with corruption at every level, and frankly, not at all surprised by these allegations. Corruption is business as usual in many African countries, and it looks as though it’s been business as usual at FIFA for nearly a quarter century.
The FIFA scandal reflects on us all. Are we content to accept it? Will the perpetrators get off with just a slap on the wrist or will they be punished?
Football is one of the world’s greatest sports, and the athletes and fans deserve better than yet another corrupt governing body. At the same time, we are hopeful. Perhaps with US and Swiss prosecutors leading the way, a meaningful dialogue will spur real and lasting change across all of the other areas of our lives infected by corruption.
We will be watching closely.
Ducor Sports– coming August 1, 2016!
Illustration by Wendo Abuto