Corruption in FIFA

Dušan Krstić, Serbia

Unfortunately, corruption is increasingly present in sports, but it is not talked about much. One of the main reasons why corruption is present in sports is the creation of money in an illegal way. The sport in which we can find the most cases of corruption is certainly football.

The biggest corruption in football happened in the period from 2010 to 2015. In November 2010, it was decided that Russia will host the World Cup in 2018, and Qatar in 2022. The first to oppose this decision were the Americans and the English. They hoped that they would be awarded the organization of the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. There was also a suspicion that Sepp Blatter (the then president of FIFA), assigned the organization of the World Cup to Russia, because of his friendly relationship with the Russian President and because of the promise that he would spare no expense when it comes to the organization. Then suspicions started that the World Cup in Russia was bought, but they were unfounded.

This corruption was first publicly discussed in 2014, when the former president of the English Football Federation, Lord Trisman, identified Sepp Blatter with Don Vito Corleone. On that occasion, Lord said: “FIFA has a decades-long tradition of bribery and corruption behind it.” Systematic corruption, which is allegedly followed by non-existent investigations, from which, by the way, the first defendants are mostly exempt, make any process impossible”. With this quote, Trisman expresses his frustrations at not being able to influence FIFA’s decisions.

The culmination of these events took place on May 26, 2015, when 14 FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich, just two days before the Congress to elect a new president. At the request of the American Ministry, the Swiss police made an arrest in the premises of one of the most luxurious hotels. The Ministry of Justice has collected a large amount of evidence showing that corruption continued during all the years of Sepp Blatter’s “reign” at the head of FIFA. A few days after the arrest, Blatter gave an interview regarding the event: “Nobody can tell me that it is a coincidence that officials are arrested two days before the Congress and that is not good at all. That probably wouldn’t have happened if the USA and England had won the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts. Of course, I will not offer to resign because that would mean that they are right, and for the last three or four years I have been fighting against corruption.” This quote shows that football has become much more than a game and that it is not only about money, but also about high politics.

When Qatar was chosen to host the World Cup in 2010, most of the “soccer world” was skeptical for a number of reasons. First of all, Qatar has never been associated with football before, let alone with the organization of any competition, not even a continental one. Also, it was immediately clear that this edition of the World Cup would not be held in the summer, as was the case with all previous championships. However, these are only small reasons compared to what was important for the leaders of FIFA, which is certainly money. The idea was to invest 200 billion dollars in organizing the World Cup in Qatar. They were so obsessed with financial gain that it didn’t matter to them that they received information that a large number of workers had lost their lives at the stadiums under construction. It would have been humane if the people from FIFA had reacted and asked for the strengthening of protective measures at the construction sites.

The footballers themselves stood up against corruption in FIFA. Gary Lineker, a former England representative, said: “Currently, there is no more miserable and corrupt organization than FIFA”, while the legendary Argentine ace Maradona said that Blatter is the lifelong dictator of FIFA, regardless of whether he was at the head of this organization or not.

Due to all the malfeasance when it comes to the organization of the World Cup in Russia and Qatar, many sponsors gave up on these projects. The company “Gazprom” remained with FIFA and decided to participate in the organization of the competition. Coca-Cola, Kia Motors and Visa agreed that corruption damages the reputation of FIFA and the World Cup. “If FIFA does not begin to rebuild the culture of football with strong ethical practices, we will reconsider our sponsorship,” Viza said in a statement.

The current president, Gianni Infantino, said that there is no more corruption in FIFA and that FIFA is ready to help by financing the global anti-corruption agency: “We at FIFA are ready to invest in it. Perhaps the creation of such an agency would help keep the sport safe for decades to come.”

One such agency could help sports only if it were neutral and if people who put sports first were working in it. Unfortunately, it is difficult to believe in this outcome at this time, because we are witnessing the recomposition and creation of a new world in which nothing will ever be the same.

Unfortunately, football is a sport that could not survive without big money, and that money can only be secured through some shady dealings and malfeasance. It is clear to everyone that corruption is still present not only in FIFA, but also in all other football organizations and that there will be more and more of it. Nevertheless, football is the most important secondary thing in the world, but also a mirror that will show us whether the world has the will and desire to return to nobility and chivalry, which should be the main characteristics of sports.