World soccer community in shock as 14 FIFA officials indicted for corruption

Blaring headlines around the world attest to the ostrich-like attitude most of the world takes toward the international governing body of soccer, FIFA (the Federation Internationale de Football Association).  Fourteen current and former members of FIFA's executive committee, as well as officials from two sports marketing companies, have been indicted in a gigantic bribery, fraud, and corruption case that has rocked the organization to its foundations.

The stench of corruption that surrounds FIFA and other international sports governing bodies like the International Olympic Committee is pervasive and casts a cloud of suspicion over the games.  But the real question is, why is anyone surprised?  Scandal after scandal has been reported over the last couple of years, as various FIFA officials have been caught brazenly demanding bribes in pay-for-play schemes. 

The current scandal dates back at least a decade, as bids for the 2010 and 2014 games were given to South Africa and Brazil.  Several FIFA executives have been charged with bribery and kickbacks going to sports marketing companies who were bidding on media rights and sponsorships.  Winning bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup in Qatar and Russia are also the target of the prosecutor.

There have also been payoffs to some FIFA executives in voting for FIFA's president.  That position is currently held by Sepp Blatter, who has been re-elected three times and is expected to win again in two days, when the organization will hold another presidential vote.  Blatter is not one of those indicted, but his re-election is now in doubt.

The Swiss government is also swooping down on FIFA officials in Zurich for a separate but related probe.  The investigation deals with corruption surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.

Washington Post:

Those charged, the Justice Department said, “include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.”

“Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner – the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States – are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses,” said the Justice Department.

“The defendants also include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.”

A search warrant was being executed at the continental confederation’s office in Miami, according to the Justice Department.

“…. The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  “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.”

Guilty pleas, according to Justice, have come from Charles Blazer, former general secretary of CONCACAF and a former U.S. representative on FIFA’s executive committee; Jose Hawilla, owner and founder of Traffic Group, a sports marketing conglomerate based in Brazil; and two of Hawilla’s companies, Traffic Sports International and Traffic Sports USA, based in Florida.

What appears to be a related investigation based in Switzerland centers around successful bids for upcoming World Cups in Russia and Qatar.

There's not much chance that the World Cup tournament will be moved from either venue despite Russia occupying Crimea and Qatar using virtual slave labor to construct the indoor arenas necessary in a country where the daily temperature routinely soars above 100 degrees.  Both nations have already spent billions on getting their countries ready to host the tournaments, and it's not likely that even though the bids were corrupted, FIFA will move the games.

The U.S. plays in the CONCACAF region, and several members of the governing body for that regional organization are on the list of those indicted.  For officials in this country, the scandal has not bottomed out yet.  Dozens of giant corporations sponsor both the World Cup and CONCACAF games in the Americas, and authorities are no doubt looking at how those sponsorships were obtained.

International sports organizations like FIFA and the International Olympic Committee have no outside watchdogs to police the members.  Billions of dollars are at stake, but unless an individual country follows the bread crumbs of corruption and holds the crooks accountable, these sports executives can do pretty much whatever they want.  Until that changes, expect more and bigger scandals of this kind in the future.

Blaring headlines around the world attest to the ostrich-like attitude most of the world takes toward the international governing body of soccer, FIFA (the Federation Internationale de Football Association).  Fourteen current and former members of FIFA's executive committee, as well as officials from two sports marketing companies, have been indicted in a gigantic bribery, fraud, and corruption case that has rocked the organization to its foundations.

The stench of corruption that surrounds FIFA and other international sports governing bodies like the International Olympic Committee is pervasive and casts a cloud of suspicion over the games.  But the real question is, why is anyone surprised?  Scandal after scandal has been reported over the last couple of years, as various FIFA officials have been caught brazenly demanding bribes in pay-for-play schemes. 

The current scandal dates back at least a decade, as bids for the 2010 and 2014 games were given to South Africa and Brazil.  Several FIFA executives have been charged with bribery and kickbacks going to sports marketing companies who were bidding on media rights and sponsorships.  Winning bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup in Qatar and Russia are also the target of the prosecutor.

There have also been payoffs to some FIFA executives in voting for FIFA's president.  That position is currently held by Sepp Blatter, who has been re-elected three times and is expected to win again in two days, when the organization will hold another presidential vote.  Blatter is not one of those indicted, but his re-election is now in doubt.

The Swiss government is also swooping down on FIFA officials in Zurich for a separate but related probe.  The investigation deals with corruption surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.

Washington Post:

Those charged, the Justice Department said, “include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.”

“Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner – the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States – are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses,” said the Justice Department.

“The defendants also include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.”

A search warrant was being executed at the continental confederation’s office in Miami, according to the Justice Department.

“…. The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  “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.”

Guilty pleas, according to Justice, have come from Charles Blazer, former general secretary of CONCACAF and a former U.S. representative on FIFA’s executive committee; Jose Hawilla, owner and founder of Traffic Group, a sports marketing conglomerate based in Brazil; and two of Hawilla’s companies, Traffic Sports International and Traffic Sports USA, based in Florida.

What appears to be a related investigation based in Switzerland centers around successful bids for upcoming World Cups in Russia and Qatar.

There's not much chance that the World Cup tournament will be moved from either venue despite Russia occupying Crimea and Qatar using virtual slave labor to construct the indoor arenas necessary in a country where the daily temperature routinely soars above 100 degrees.  Both nations have already spent billions on getting their countries ready to host the tournaments, and it's not likely that even though the bids were corrupted, FIFA will move the games.

The U.S. plays in the CONCACAF region, and several members of the governing body for that regional organization are on the list of those indicted.  For officials in this country, the scandal has not bottomed out yet.  Dozens of giant corporations sponsor both the World Cup and CONCACAF games in the Americas, and authorities are no doubt looking at how those sponsorships were obtained.

International sports organizations like FIFA and the International Olympic Committee have no outside watchdogs to police the members.  Billions of dollars are at stake, but unless an individual country follows the bread crumbs of corruption and holds the crooks accountable, these sports executives can do pretty much whatever they want.  Until that changes, expect more and bigger scandals of this kind in the future.