On May 27th 2015 seven FIFA officials were arrested by the FBI for allegations of collusion and corruption with regards to the awarding of the 2010 World Cup to South Africa, the upcoming 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Most people are of the opinion that these arrests have been a long time coming, the allegations of corruption in FIFA have been around for many years but became increasingly prevalent in 2010 after the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Now you may be thinking – especially if you have no interest in football – why does this matter? Well, the football World Cup is the most-watched sporting event, even bigger than the Olympics and therefore it generates billions of dollars through merchandise, sponsors and broadcasting rights. This investigation questions the honesty of those running FIFA, and by association the reliability of the voting process which awards World Cup tournaments, elects FIFA’s president and allocates funds to FIFA’s poorer member states for improving grassroots football.
The big question is: does this alleged corruption in FIFA go right to the top? Sepp Blatter, the current FIFA president, was re-elected in May but after only 4 days – when the scandal had increased in momentum – he said he would step down in February 2016 once a new president was elected. Blatter has been president of FIFA for 17 years; his involvement in the alleged corruption is uncertain but there have been allegations of bribery involving his many re-elections as president and the 2010 South African World Cup.
When Qatar was announced as the host of the 2022 World Cup it definitely came as a surprise to many, especially, especially when more qualified countries (us) were also in the running for the job. Let’s put it in perspective – England have 15 football stadiums with a capacity of over 35,000 each, whilst Qatar only has one football stadium with a capacity over 35,000; England have qualified for 14 World Cups whereas Qatar have not qualified for any. So basically FIFA handed the World Cup to a seemingly unequipped and unprepared country. And let’s not even get started on the country’s dubious human rights laws. If a minute’s silence was held for every worker who had been killed building stadiums, kick off would be delayed for 20 hours and that’s only so far; there’s another 7 years until the World Cup – how many more deaths will occur in that time?
Most of us probably saw the video of comedian Simon Brodkin shower Sepp Blatter with fake money at a press conference in July. Although I don’t agree with his methods it does make a point that football has become more about making money than about enjoying and nurturing the sport. Let’s hope that with this investigation and the election of a new president, football’s governing body can finally get back to what’s important – the game.