FIFA in deep crisis

With corruption allegations coming thick and fast from every direction, FIFA and its top executives are on a sticky wicket, writes Brain Glanville.

Yes, gentlemen, I'm afraid it's true. Not only did Michel Platini vote for Qatar and the 2022 World Cup, but he actually descended to the absurdity of suggesting that given the roasting hot climate there in summer, the tournament could be played in winter, thereby utterly subverting Europe's club competitions. Not for a moment am I suggesting that Platini, such a superb footballing talent in his time, is anything but as pure as the driven snow. It simply, alas, shows that the President of UEFA, who reassuringly says that he doesn't want the position at FIFA, is as grotesquely misled as all those others who voted for tiny Qatar, with its totally negligible soccer background. Some of whom on the committee that matters, being found guilty of accepting huge sums of money.

For those of us who have spent many painful and frustrating years studying the iniquities, hypocrisies and corruption of FIFA, ever since Brazil's egregious Joao Havelange with well rewarded Africa, manipulated England's Stanley Rous out of the FIFA Presidency in Frankfurt, there is a certain bitter belated satisfaction seeing what has happened now. The kind of thing which never happened in Havelange's long and tainted reign. Not least because, just like Platini today, those Europeans, in particular, who might have done something about it — England's Football Association very much among them — sat back and allowed Havelange to run FIFA, you might say as a fiefdom. As comprehensively and shockingly chronicled in David Yallop's book, “How They Stole the Game”.

No fewer than 37 African delegates were flown to Frankfurt at Havelange's expense. And what expense! To promote his Presidential campaign he visited 86 countries! How did he pay? In the words of Dr. Lobo, former business partner of Havelange, Yallop writes: “Part of the money came from embezzled funds from the Brazilian Sports Federation.”

By the same token, how did the devious President Sepp Blatter, Havelange's protégé and FIFA Secretary, win the FIFA election of 1998 in France, when it seemed a walkover for honest Lennart Johansson of Sweden; even if he had once made a somewhat crassly racist remark being uneasily in a room with a number of African delegates. In fact it was the African delegates, who had been expected to vote solidly for Johansson — in the secret ballot that Johansson didn't want — who supported Blatter. Allegedly pocketing USD50,000 from, yes, you have guessed it! That very same Bin Hammam of Qatar who has been accused and was put out of the race for the FIFA Presidency for offering money to delegates. And how did Qatar acquire the World Cup? Both he and the intolerable Jack Warner of Trinidad, embroiled in a plethora of World Cup ticket scams, have been suspended after the sitting of an ethics committee given minimal time to investigate. Composed of a bunch of football non-entities, the leader coming not from any of the major African football countries, but from little Namibia.

Another, later, equally devastating book, “Foul!” by that indomitable investigator, Andrew Jennings, who follows the scoundrels of FIFA around, on television, microphone in hand, reveals the oldness of the relations between Blatter and Warner who over the years has been able to extract endless privileges and huge sums of money from FIFA. Though evidently not enough to pay the promised World Cup bonuses to that gallant Trinidad and Tobago team.

Mohamed bin Hammam (right), Chief of the Asian Football Confederation, and FIFA Vice President Jack Warner were temporarily suspended from FIFA.-AP

Yet the Football Association, in their hapless and hopeless bid for the 2018 World Cup, fawned on Warner, sending a team to play meaningless friendly in Port of Spain and even sending David Beckham there not long before the World Cup voting, to oversee a coaching course. Warner, having promised England his World Cup vote, and, in the abject attentions of Prime Minister Cameron and even Prince William in Zurich, before the vote, of course voted elsewhere.

Perhaps the greatest puzzle of the recent FIFA scandal is that the man who blew the whistle on Warner was none other than fat, bearded Chuck Blazer, second in command to Warner at CONCACAF whose more than 30 votes have been invaluable to Blatter, “If he wants to,” Blazer is on record having said of Warner, “I believe he can head FIFA one day. If he decided that was the way he wanted to you will find that there will be a tremendous amount of support for him.” So why has Blazer “outed” his old friend? He tells us he was shocked by what he recently discovered — giving chapter and verse — about what kind of corrupting was going on. But that kind of thing had been going on for years.

You may remember that, not so long ago, Blazer and Jerome Valke then a medium level executive at FIFA, appeared in a New York count endeavouring to wrest World Cup rights from Mastercard, who had it for several tournaments, and giving them to Visa. The woman judge not only threw out the case, but accused both men of lying. Valke came to Zurich, was briefly suspended; then made FIFA chief executive and seems now to have become a whistle blower himself.

Shamelessly, Blatter refusing to postpone the Presidential election thus stood alone for the Presidency he already held. The former senior Olympic vice president, USA's Dick Pound, has declared that only thing to do with FIFA is to abolish it and start all over again. But even if the far from incisive Football Association found the courage to pull out of FIFA, would they be widely followed? Certainly not.

And how did racist Russia get the 2018 World Cup?