FIFA rocked by corruption scandal

Louis LaVenture,
Sports and Campus Editor

Corruption, racketeering, bribery, wire fraud and money laundering were among the charges levied against nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives connected to the soccer corruption case. On May 27, the United States Department of Justice announced indictments against those 14 officials connected to soccer’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.

Despite all of the accusations, FIFA President Sepp Blatter won reelection for his fifth term on Friday. On Tuesday, just three days after Blatter was reelected, he resigned as FIFA President and held a press conference where he said a special election would be held between December 2015 and March 2016 to name a replacement. He said he would remain in the position until a new leader is elected.

“FIFA needs profound restructuring,” Blatter said at Tuesday’s press conference. “Although members have given me the new mandate, this mandate does not seem to be supported by everyone.”

The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States.

— Loretta Lynch

The FIFA officials are accused of accepting bribes that allegedly totaled in excess of $150 million over 24 years according to the indictment, primarily to secure host cities for the World Cup. Valente Corp., Somerton Ltd., Traffic Sports USA Inc. and Full Play Group S.A. were just some of the corporations named in the indictment last week.

At the request of the United States Department of Justice, authorities in Switzerland arrested seven FIFA officials after the indictment was announced. Swiss officials also announced, just hours after the arrests, an investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

There has been a heavy backlash towards the Russian and Qatar cups from several protesting groups. According to The Guardian, “Nepalese migrants building the infrastructure to host the 2022 World Cup have died at a rate of one every two days in 2014 and there have been over 1,000 total deaths to date.”

The Russian cup is being criticized primarily because of the involvement of the controversial President Vladimir Putin. In a recent report by the Washington Post, they found that the Russian leader could be worth over $200 billion despite filing financial forms that claimed he was worth just over $100,000.

Before his resignation Blatter said there would be no changes to the World Cup sites for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments in Russia and Qatar respectively, which is something that will have to be decided by the new President.

One of the major sponsors of FIFA is Visa, who released a statement following the indictments saying that if changes were not implemented they would have to “reassess its agreement” with the organization. Visa is not part of any of the investigations at this point according to U.S. officials.

It is unclear how the new leader of FIFA will handle their relationships with sponsors, however Blatter said, “We have had contact with the sponsors last week when such declaration came. We have exchanged letters, and we start to bring back the reputation of FIFA. I’m sure we will bring them back all in the right situation and have planned a personal visit to the organization of these sponsors.”

The U.S. Soccer Federation, which is a member of FIFA, released a statement last week that said, “The United States Soccer Federation firmly believes there is no higher priority, and nothing more important, than protecting the integrity of our game. We are committed to the highest ethical standards and business practices, and we will continue to encourage CONCACAF and FIFA to promote the same values. Out of respect for the ongoing investigation, we will not speculate or comment further on this matter at this time.”

Attorney General of the United States Loretta Lynch announced the charges on Wednesday at a press conference where she said, “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States. It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”

According to the indictment, four individual defendants and two corporations have plead guilty in the case that alleged bribes were accepted to obtain media and marketing rights to World Cup soccer tournaments.

FIFA released a statement earlier this week that said, “FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football. FIFA is fully cooperating with the investigation and is supporting the collection of evidence.”

Not many FIFA soccer players or coaches have spoken out about the issues hovering over their sport; however, those that have did not seem supportive.

“Blatter wasn’t sole responsible, more have to follow,” Belgium national team and Manchester City center back Vincent Kompany said on Twitter. “Transparency and voting reform, then we move on and bring back ethics.”