It was the best worst-kept secret in all of sports, but I’m not sure anyone could have predicted the absolute scope and scale of FIFA’s corruption. Last week, just days prior to holding their presidential elections, the governing body of international soccer was raided by police—leading to a handful of arrests of high-ranking FIFA officials. Allegations include racketeering, money laundering and bribery—your typical white-collar crime fare.
Ladies and gentlemen: John Oliver was right.
According to the unsealed indictments, the FIFA probe began shortly after the suspicious awarding of World Cups to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. The World Cup is traditionally held during the summer months, making it virtually impossible for it to be held in Qatar considering temperatures can skyrocket over 130 degrees Fahrenheit. FIFA also requires numerous cities replete with soccer infrastructure, which Qatar did not have. “Screw it, we’ll build them,” they said. With that kind of cash laying around, it’s not hard to believe there would be some to spare to grease some palms.
Essentially, Qatar is the worst place on the planet to host such a massive sporting event.
That’s the crux of the allegations against FIFA: that troughs of cash was exchanged to influence bid selection for the next two World Cups. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch referred to them as a “criminal enterprise,” and with the details trickling out about the organization, it appears an appropriate label.
Even with the dark clouds surrounding the FIFA leadership, they still voted to re-elect their longtime president Sepp Blatter to his fifth term, although the questions regarding his involvement are getting closer to his doorstep. I don’t feel there is any way that he remains at his post for long; there was too much that went on during his watch. Either he knew and ignored it, or was completely unaware—which given FIFA’s widely held reputation as a corrupt organization might be even worse.
More than 1,200 migrant workers have already died building Qatar’s World Cup infrastructure—for an event they should not be hosting. As far as I’m concerned, that blood is directly on FIFA’s hands, and I hope the arrests force change in an organization that dreadfully needs it.