The FIFA circus continued last week as the much-awaited internal report into strongly alleged corruption within the organisation, specifically relating to the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, was published. FIFA was found innocent of any corruption and the only party admonished in the investigation was England, for their “disruption” of the bidding process by alleging that there was impropriety afoot on behalf of some of the bidders.
The thing is though that the actual report wasn’t published, just a summary of it edited by FIFA-appointed “ethics adjudicator” Hans-Joachim Eckert. US investigator Andrew Garcia was brought in two years ago to head the inquest, and only just last month handed over his final findings, of which there were 442 pages worth. The summary published today was only 42 pages long. And the farce continued on Thursday as Garcia himself announced that “contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations”. Garcia will appeal the findings of FIFA, but only to the organisation’s Appeals Committee, which is very unlikely to find in his favour. The entire process of trying to prove that corruption is not a problem at FIFA has turned out to hint even more heavily that it is.
For the world game, it is another embarrassment to shoulder as the game’s leaders yet again prove themselves to be an undemocratic, self-interested group of bureaucrats. They’re unwillingness to change has seen football lag behind other sports in terms of technology, and with the human disaster going on in Qatar with the building of stadia, where as many people will die in construction as died during the building of the Pyramids of Giza thousands of years ago, the game is getting a reputation that makes me and thousands of others feel disgusted.
Fans across the world are united against FIFA’s actions in relation to the 2022 World Cup and the organisation’s ongoing corruption. The feeling is particularly strong here in the UK, with a YouGov poll in the Sunday Times producing some damning figures. 71% believed the Qatar bid was corrupt, compared to 3% who though that it wasn’t and Only 10% believe that Qatar should still host the 2022 World Cup. Only 5% of people believe that FIFA’s investigation was fair, and only 3% think that Sepp Blatter should stand for another term. The support for those at the top of the game is non-existent, but the lack of accountability of FIFA means that as things stand there’s absolutely no reason for the bigwigs to care.
Wheels may be in motion against FIFA though. US law enforcement officials have reported that in the wake of the failed corruption that the FBI is stepping up its’ existing probe into FIFA. Should Andrew Garcia be persuaded to join them, their case would likely be powerful and compelling and result in charges for some of the top dogs in the organisation. Although FIFA is insulated to an extent by being a private organisation and also being based in Switzerland, if there is enough evidence of bribery and impropriety that goes beyond football then there could be legitimate cases brought.
Also, relations between FIFA and the second most influential organisation within football, UEFA, have become increasingly strained over recent months. UEFA President Michel Platini has been vocal in his criticism of the FIFA hierarchy, and there is much speculation that he would like to take over himself when the dictator Sepp Blatter eventually leaves the post of President. His innovations in the European game have been largely welcomed and he would be a candidate respected by far more of the footballing fanbase given his renowned success as a player.
The national associations within UEFA have also called for greater transparency from the governing body, with England officials such as chairman Greg Dyke damning FIFA for criticising their 2018 World Cup bid and German FA President Reinhard Rauball even suggesting that UEFA might have to consider breaking away from FIFA if the Garcia report is not released.
The change at the top needs to be radical and it needs to come soon. Nothing short of a wide-ranging sponsor and national team boycott of FIFA will change their corruption culture, as their actions are driven by money and not the love of the game. Depriving them of their massive salaries and ridiculous faux diplomatic immunity would be the only thing to stop them from running football’s image further into the ground. However, this change is much easier said than done – as no country would conceivably agree to isolate themselves from international football and the hallowed tournament of the World Cup and to shoulder the sanctions that would undoubtedly be heaped upon them by the vengeful FIFA. Four of the World Cup’s six main sponsors called for rigorous investigation of claims in The Sunday Times in July that Qatar bribed its’ way to winning the hosting rights for the 2022 tournament, and if the building pressure on FIFA does not see them relent then its’ certainly possible that at least one of them will pull their funding. The proposed UEFA breakaway might just be the most plausible threat, as a World Cup without some of the game’s best teams such as Germany, Spain, Italy, England etc. would be a laughing stock. It is extremely unlikely, but as an explosive and effective option it would certainly shock FIFA into action in a way that little else could.
FIFA’s corruption report might have been intended to stop any changes in the organisation, but I believe that it has inadvertently become the catalyst that the anti-FIFA movement has needed to take things to a new level. Blatter and his cronies are embattling themselves in scandal and, for the first time, it’s beginning to look as though they are being outnumbered. Let’s hope, for football’s sake, that this is truly the last stand of corruption of FIFA and that it will be defeated so that the beautiful game’s image can begin to improve once more.