For the last couple of weeks, since FBI and law enforcement agencies walked into a plush Zurich hotel, the Baur au Lac, and arrested seven FIFA officials, there has been a rumble all around the sports world. In fact, even outside of the sports world.
First, soon after the day the arrests took place and then when Sepp Blatter resigned as FIFA president on Wednesday (3 June), Qatar’s stock exchange index took a plunge, going down almost 3% at one point.
Qatar’s bourses and investors have a reason to feel restless, with the government spending on the World Cup expected to be around $200 billion — 10 times more than that of Russia’s $20 billion. Russia’s spend itself is way above what Brazil spent in 2014 — $11.2 billion. Investors have been feeling jittery and the sentiment is likely to continue that way till things become clearer. And that is not likely to happen in a hurry, even as Blatter hangs in as ‘caretaker’ president, if one can call him that. The process of appointing a new president could take six months or until the end of the year. By that time, many fear a lot of evidences could be destroyed by the ‘corrupt’ officials. Yet, there is a strong belief that the FBI has enough to “nail” Blatter, which is probably why he resigned, days after saying that he would not and five days after winning a fifth term in an office that he has held since 1998.
The world Cup in South Africa is the one which has broken FIFA’s back but there is lot more to the story. Things have gone as far back as the vote for the 1998 World Cup in France. There is an allegation of bribes paid by one of the losing bidders, Morocco.
As for 2010 World Cup, there are now allegations that it was Morocco which won the bid for 2010 but South Africa got to host the World Cup. And at the heart of the recent scandal has been the $10 million bribe that former CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) president Jack Warner, considered close to Blatter, had demanded from the South Africans. That, it now seems, was paid by the FIFA and then deducted from the funds that were to be given to South Africa.
There is also an ongoing investigation in Brazil. Ricardo Teixeira, a former head of the Brazilian fa who presided over the preparations for the 2014 World Cup before being forced to resign in 2012, is also now being investigated by the Brazilian authorities and the FBI.
While anti-Blatter officials want both the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids to be revisited and, if need be, take away the events from Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022). There really has been no concrete evidence as such but with so much ‘muck’ turning up every few days, it would not come as a surprise if money power indeed influenced certain decisions.
Host country apart, the revelations by John Delaney, president of Ireland Football Association, that the FIFA paid the Ireland organisation 5 million Euros to avert legal action following their team’s loss to France by a goal in a qualifying match in 2009, have compounded the woes of the FIFA. Frenchman Thierry Henry’s handball in a match against Ireland in 2009 led to a goal that prevented the Irish from qualifying for the World Cup. That means a lot of results could now be suspect. The US indictment has named 18 officials — four of whom have already accepted a guilty plea, with Warner’s two sons being among them — and charged officials with a total of 47 offences, including racketeering, fraud and money laundering. The arrested included FIFA vice-presidents Eugenio Figueredo and Jeffrey Webb.
Webb, a powerful man, close to Blatter, just as Warner once was before being ejected from FIFA for ‘wrong-doings’, had been praised for the work he had done in apparently cleaning up CONCACAF, which had previously been headed by Warner and Chuck Blazer, who is now singing like a canary in the US.