So who was doing the bribing?

So when I told Richard about the FIFA scandal and why it is such a big deal he thought I was daft, wonkers.

Uhh… ok, I’ve just run out of British synonyms for crazy, but you’ve got to understand that Dad is a Turn Left fan and can hardly be expected to understand that Football is a game you play with your feet.

I’m hardly more advanced in my insularity because I think it’s the most boring game in the world, the exact antithesis of Pro Basketball which is also boring but at least you score every once in a while (like every 2 seconds or so) and is 30 minutes shorter, not counting ‘extra’ time.

But the beautiful game’s charms are not lost on 90% of the world and I do my best to play along which is why I was shocked, shocked I say, to learn there was corruption! in the very highest echelons of what is not only the most popular, but the most profitable sport of all (Quick quiz- what is the most valuable sports franchise?  The New York Yankees?  Wrong.  They’re only the second most valuable, the most valuable is Manchester United.).

Anyway Richard asked- ‘so who was doing the bribing?’ as if there were some larger entity than FIFA enticing them to take action against their own best interests (assuming those interests to be the integrity of the sport and not their own pockets).

Well, I think extortion is a more appropriate term in this case.  There is no one bigger than FIFA, there are a bunch of smaller interests seeking favor and you have to pay to play.

Interestingly enough the indictments offered so far have nothing to do with the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively, or Quatar’s use of slave labor to construct its venues, or rampant match fixing; nor are they expected to interfere with the election of Sepp Blatter to his 5th term as president.

So here’s a roundup of current developments from Isvestia (or is it Pravda, I always get those two mixed up).

Another Body Blow for FIFA, and for Sepp Blatter

By JERÉ LONGMAN, The New York Times

MAY 27, 2015

Mr. Blatter, 79, is expected to win a fifth term as FIFA’s president on Friday, but he presides over an organization covered in the soot of dishonor. Several FIFA officials were arrested Wednesday morning in Zurich and accused of widespread corruption dating to the 1990s.

Mr. Blatter was not charged. Still he remains wildly unpopular, except among his enablers – corporate sponsors like Coca-Cola, Adidas and Visa, and docile national soccer federations – who have for too long looked the other way as the money and the favors flowed.

As long as Mr. Blatter remains in power, “FIFA will lack credibility and its image will be tarnished, and so it will lack authority,” Michel Platini, who heads UEFA, the European soccer confederation, told the French sports newspaper L’Équipe.

Mr. Blatter has quadrupled FIFA’s revenue and maintained power and support by doling out hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to each of the world’s 209 national soccer federations. Each federation gets one vote for FIFA president. The money paid to them is often loosely accounted for, though, and many suspect it builds the personal wealth of soccer officials as much as it builds soccer fields.

Serious charges have been levied against Mr. Blatter for years. In 2002, Michel Zen-Ruffinen, then FIFA’s secretary general, accused Mr. Blatter of financial mismanagement and wrote that he ran FIFA “like a dictatorship.”

Such caustic words have always bounced off Mr. Blatter like a header off the crossbar. He has never admitted wrongdoing. FIFA’s marketing arm went bankrupt in 2001 after paying millions in bribes, including to Mr. Blatter’s predecessor, João Havelange of Brazil. Mr. Blatter was cleared, but FIFA investigators questioned whether he knew or should have known about the payments.

When public reproach became too stinging, Mr. Blatter created his own celluloid reality. In 2014, FIFA spent $27 million on a hagiographic movie about Mr. Blatter, with Tim Roth starring in this bit of pulp fiction. Recently, he compared himself to a mountain goat, telling a Swiss newspaper: “I cannot be stopped. I just keep going.”

Mr. Blatter’s preferred method is to sweep scandal under a threadbare carpet. When Jack Warner, a FIFA power broker from Trinidad and Tobago, resigned in 2011, accused in a bribery scandal, Mr. Blatter halted any further investigation of Mr. Warner.

FIFA never bothered to interview a referee, Ibrahim Chaibou, who officiated a number of apparently fixed matches before and after the 2010 World Cup. And Mr. Blatter oversaw the release of only a tepid summary of his chief ethics investigator’s report into the much-criticized bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The tournaments were awarded to Russia and Qatar in a process rife with accusations of bribery and vote trading.

Much more to come.

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