You're going to be hearing a lot in the coming days about the World Cup vote-rigging allegations rocking FIFA, soccer's international governing body, to its core. Since it seems like FIFA is always being rocked to its core by allegations of some sort, and because the latest controversy is particularly detailed, we've assembled a FAQ guide for those Atlantic Wire readers who aren't fully up-to-speed on the beautiful game's brutal internal politics.
So, what's this one about? Drugs? Terrible officiating? General institutional corruption?
General institutional corruption.
[Scoffs] The NFL's mired in a lockout nobody wants to solve and the NBA's headed down the same path. Don't talk me about general institutional corruption.
This is so much worse, though. Two FIFA vice presidents, Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar and Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, were suspended Saturday by FIFA's ethics committee following accusation they conspired to buy votes for bin Hammam in Wednesday's upcoming election for the FIFA presidency.
Are they going away quietly?
No. Warner (right) has already promised a "tsunami" of revelations detailing the corruption FIFA organizing secretary Jerome Valcke and current president Sepp Blatter, who is now running unopposed Wednesday for reelection. Warner has already accused Blatter of giving the Caribbean delegation $1 million to spend "as it [saw] fit" to guarantee his reelection and has leaked an email from Jerome Valcke, the organization's general secretary, in which he express bewilderment with bin Hammam and asks if he "[thinks] you can buy FIFA as they [Qatar] bought the W.C."
Qatar? Vote-buying? Didn't I hear about this months ago?
Well, kind of, but this is different--to a point. Speculation about Qatar's possibly underhanded tactics started almost as soon as the country was awarded the 2022 Cup back in December. A month before that, FIFA's ethics court suspended three officials for trying to sell their votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Times of London reporters posing as representatives from Qatar. Valcke's email and bin Hammam's suspension don't prove anything per se, but the team that put together Qatar's bid quickly issued a statement "categorically denying any wrongdoing" related to the bid, adding that they are "urgently seeking clarification from Fifa about the statement from their general secretary."
How's that going over?
Not well. The press in England, still smarting about losing the 2018 Cup to Russia, is targeting Blatter as a corrupt figurehead. "If Blatter had an ounce of dignity he would have resigned months ago," declared a Daily Mirror editorial "Sadly, the beautiful game has been brought low by the ugly actions of its leaders." The Sun concurred: "FIFA must be cleaned up. It cannot happen with Blatter at its helm." England's soccer overlords agree, with English and Scottish Football Associations (FA) demanding that Wednesday's elections be postponed so that "any alternative reforming candidate"can come forward and challenge Blatter, who has been president since 1988. Britain's Department of Culture, Media and Sport is also calling for a full-on investigation of Blatter, FIFA, and the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 Cups. (Blatter, for his part, has been defiant, responding to criticism today by declaring, "We are not in a bazaar, we are in FIFA House.)
Will the election actually be delayed?
It seems like a longshot. The FA carries a lot of weight, but the Associated Press notes that, according to FIFA bylaws they would "need to find support from 75 percent of the 208 members of the congress to bring about a postponement of the elections." The absence of an opposition candidate would allow Blatter to coast to victory. Though the Spanish Football Association has joined in on the call to postpone the election.
So what's going to change?
Possibly nothing, but history's verdict is already coming in, and it's not pretty. In the AP's estimation, the allegations already amount to the "worst scandal in [FIFA's] 107-year-history," while the New York Times observed FIFA appears to be "disintegrating on all sides of the world, and from its top table down."
Typical soccer. Nothing changes. Did the United States at least get to play some role in the intrigue?
It did! Chuck Blazer, the only American only FIFA's executive committee, was the one who blew the whistle on Warner and Bin Hammam, and has also subsequently reported Warner for allegedly violating the terms of his suspension.
Well that's good!
It is good.