FIFA Officials' Corruption Charges Show A Long History Of Accusations & Scandals For The Soccer Organization
In a stunning operation early Wednesday morning, Swiss authorities arrested seven FIFA officials to face corruption charges set to be filed by the U.S. Justice Department, according to a statement from the Swiss government. The FIFA officials' corruption charges are, sadly, the latest chapter in the organization's long history of scandals. In a DOJ statement released Wednesday, 14 people were named on charges that included racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy. Along with FIFA officials, the indictment identified U.S. and South American sports-marketing execs for allegedly paying more than $150 million in bribes and gifts for media deals related to the widely watched matches.
For most soccer fans, news of corruption isn't that shocking. For so long have there been reports of bribery and corruption within FIFA, the governing body of the world's most popular sport. The most recent high-profile accusation came during bids to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups — Russia and Qatar won, respectively. In 2010, two of the 24 FIFA committee members set to decide the host countries were suspended after Sunday Times journalists caught Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti on tape asking for money in exchange for their votes. Lord Triesman, the bid chief for England, which had aggressively sought one of the disputed host bids, later accused four FIFA officials of requesting gifts for votes.
The financial struggles of Brazil, host of the 2014 World Cup, were well-documented as the country scrambled to pay an estimated $11 billion to host the event. Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians protested before and during the World Cup and blamed FIFA for its high demands that forced the country to spend much-needed resources on the tournament instead of toward other internal infrastructure and programs. Former soccer god Romário, said The Guardian, described the 2014 World Cup as "the biggest heist in the history of Brazil."
Jack Warner, FIFA's former vice president and one of the 14 people named in the indictment, resigned in 2011 after accusations emerged of bribery at FIFA's Trinidad conference. Warner was also accused of profiting off black market resales of World Cup tickets for the 2006 tournament, with one report estimating his family reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The organization has also been plagued with accusations of sexism and homophobia. Back in 2004, FIFA President Joseph "Sepp" Blatter (pictured above) suggested women soccer players should wear more revealing clothing, such as "tighter shorts," to increase the sport's popularity. In 2010, when asked whether Qatar's laws against homosexuality would endanger gay fans, Blatter joked, "I'd say they should refrain from any sexual activities," before going on to assure their safety. Blatter, who was set to be reelected in Zurich for the fifth time, was not named as one of the officials charged in the indictment.
What makes the Justice Department's indictment so stunning are that names are being named and charges are actually being pursued. The DOJ, which publicly announced its case Wednesday, will have to prove its jurisdiction given that many of the alleged crimes happened overseas. For so long have accusations of corruption and scandalous attitudes in FIFA gone unanswered, and whether the U.S. charges will materialize into real change for the sport has yet to be seen.
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