Clegg: FIFA’s brand of corruption

BY CHRIS CLEGG | JULY 29, 2015 5:00 AM

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Exactly 64 days have passed since the New York Times first reported that 14 officials from FIFA, the global governing body of soccer, were arrested at a luxury hotel in Zurich on a litany of charges from money laundering to racketeering and bribery.

In these past two months, we’ve seen some of these people plead guilty, some maintain their innocence, and others who have seem to have lost their swagger for public appearance entirely. 

However, while the situation for those accused seems to grow more volatile by the second, it is interesting to note that not much has changed pertaining to the organization itself.

Not only did FIFA fail to implement any type of structural or personnel change, but it somehow, to the bewilderment of soccer fans everywhere, managed to re-elect its highest ranking official, current President Sepp Blatter —  not even a week after the news broke. 

As absurdly comical as that is, Blatter’s re-election could only mean one thing: The corruption in the organization is not only rampant but systematically supported by its members. After all, if one were a beneficiary of widespread corruption, why wouldn’t it be in that person’s interest to keep the status quo? How Blatter received a whopping 133 of the 206 votes possible is a question for another article, but the sheer support that he gained speaks volumes to the sorry state that FIFA is in.

Nonetheless, after an uproar of people in FIFA ranks, as well as other influential soccer figures around the globe, such as Union of European Football Associations President Michel Platini and Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke, Blatter did eventually hand in his resignation on June 2.

The tragic saga doesn’t end there, however.

Blatter is still running the show until FIFA can hold an “extraordinary congress” to “elect” new leadership, something that may not get done until February 2016, according to ESPN FC. Even though the FIFA scandal has become common knowledge, we can pretty much guarantee that no one in the organization is mustering up enough gall to spearhead reform from the inside out and this is where FIFA’s sponsors can come in handy.

When the arrests were first reported, VISA Inc., one of FIFA’s biggest partners, released a statement calling for “swift and immediate steps to address these issues.” Indeed, the immediacy that VISA touched on with this language was then reinforced later in the statement “… and it is important that FIFA makes changes now.”

This was encouraging because, as the Huffington Post notes, FIFA generates about a third of its revenue from its various commercial sponsors such as VISA (others include Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and KIA). Without revenue from these sponsors, FIFA simply wouldn’t be able to function at the level it currently does. 

Well, lo and behold, days turned into weeks and weeks into months until VISA re-emerged this past week to call for an independent commission to address FIFA’s “wholly inadequate” response to the allegations. But while the major credit-card company seems to have no problem talking the talk, walking the walk is a bit different. 

FIFA’s sponsors are the reason that the organization has the scope that it does. Without their revenue funding its ventures, it would have a serious problem holding such tournaments as the World Cup and even more serious problems broadcasting those games to millions (if not billions) of people across the globe.

If FIFA’s partners stop threatening the governing body with exodus and actually suspend, or even cut, all ties with the more than dubious soccer governance, they have the ability to spearhead reform from the outside in. I know this may be a difficult decision to make when the relationship between FIFA and its commercial sponsors results in X amount of dollars for both parties, but Blatter’s organization has become so tainted with corruption that every second sponsors decide to attach their names to it, they drink the runoff.

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