A massive revelation was made on Sunday 5th September and, contrary to what the English media might have you believe, it wasn’t Wayne Rooney fooling around with hookers but the latest revelations in to the murky pool that is the football governing body FIFA.
A Norwegian newspaper, Dagbladet, ran an article in early August claiming that 60,000 names had been sold on the black market from a FIFA list of ticket holders from the 2006 World Cup finals, including such information as full names, dates of birth and passport numbers. A week later they then ran another story saying as many as 350,000 names were on list’s sold on the black market and 250,000 of these names contain full names and sensitive identity information and some of the people included were the Head of the Norwegian national bank, Olympic gold medal ski star Anja Parson and former Swedish PM Ingvar Carlsson, so clearly the people responsible for selling these tickets had access to a full range of names. The paper goes on to claim that a ‘respected black market dealer’ told them several countries refuse to send personal information to FIFA as they worry it will end up in the wrong hands.
This is nothing new in the world of FIFA, in 2006 before the world cup it was revealed that FIFA vice president and head of CONCACAF Jack Warner was acquiring tickets through his FIFA contacts and then selling them at massive increases in prices to travel companies. He was also responsible for all the Trinidad & Tobago 2006 group tickets being sold through one Travel Company called Simpaul, a company that he and his son ran and owned. When FIFA found out about his interest on the side he was called before a hearing but by the time a judgement was made he had officially left the board of this company but his son still stayed on as managing director and, despite being told they couldn’t sell any more World Cup tickets, they still carried on. Although FIFA’s punishment was supposed to be kept confidential and in house the stories leaked through the media and its alleged that Warner was fined a paltry $50,000 (nothing to a man in his position and with his wealth) and told to pay it when he could – a fine that allegedly is still outstanding. Considering that Warner allegedly made $54,000 just from selling tickets personally to an agency called Kick Sports. Despite the fact that Warner was found guilty of the accusations against him FIFA could not remove him from the executive committee as only his confederation can remove him, a federation that Warner effectively controls.
‘I am deputy chairman of the finance committee of FIFA. I oversee a budget of US$2 billion and I have never seen one iota of corruption.’
Jack Warner, Trinidad Express 12 December 2004
On the 15th of August this year some of the most dramatic revelations in FIFA history were made by Sepp Blatter, with the current president admitting that some FIFA executive committee members took massive kickbacks from the ISL marketing company. This date backs to allegations bought against the executive committee in May 2006 when Andrew Jennings released a book called Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote-Rigging and Ticket Scandals (a book Sepp Blatter tried to get banned worldwide using FIFA funds) claiming that ‘cash for contract’ deals were rife between FIFA and its marketing partner ISL which collapsed with debts of over $300m. Blatter & Warner had both said they had never seen any corruption or evidence of corruption in football previously but Blatter quickly changed his tune when he was questioned by Thomas Hildbrand, an investigating magistrate from Zug in Switzerland, FIFA’s base of operations. Nearly 10 years after first facing questioning about the fact that FIFA officials took kicks backs for Blatter to suddenly change his tune is quite amazing considering that he has always claimed bribery and corruption are not rife in FIFA. Andrew Jennings excellent Panorama investigation into this turned up some exceptional information with insiders at ISL admitting they received and paid bribes in various off shore accounts to top ranking FIFA officials. The official liquidator of ISL, Thomas Bower, was asked by Jennings if he’d uncovered any evidence of bribes and his answer was ‘I have found football related payments from ISL, some are very large, in excess of one million francs. I have written to the recipients asking them to return the money’ it seems that this money still hasn’t been returned. Originally suspicion was aroused after a payment of 1m francs (around £400,000) was meant to be sent to a ‘very senior FIFA official’s personal bank account turned up in FIFA’s official accounts! It’s also alleged after this payment arrived Blatter asked for the money to be moved to the named official’s account – when this was put to FIFA this is the reaction Panorama got
BBC Panorama Reporter Andy Davies:
‘A one million franc bribe … is it not correct that Mr Blatter asked that it be moved to the FIFA official who was named on the payment slip?’
FIFA Director of Communications Markus Siegler:
‘If you do not stop now, then we call the security and we put you out.’
FIFA Press conference, Zurich, Tuesday, 11 April 2006
If you take time to read the reports, court room statements and reactions to this case it is clear that FIFA & ISL had a very ‘cosy’ relationship and that despite denials by Blatter for nearly 10 years his recent admission that kickbacks and bribes were taken should be looked in to as a matter of urgency.
In 2007 a judge in the U.S Court of appeal described Blatter as ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ after it was ruled that FIFA had to pay $90m to Mastercard after breaking an agreement and instead of offering Mastercard first rights to sponsor the World Cup offered the deal to Visa. Once the court case was settled Mastercard declared they didn’t want to work with FIFA (or more specifically Blatter & his team) any longer. Although no irregularities with regards to payments have been suggested the simple fact that Blatter and his FIFA team ignored a contract stating Mastercard should be offered first refusal for sponsoring the World Cup is bad enough, but Blatter claim’s the deal is for $170m, $10m lower than the previous deal, suggests to me that this isn’t as straight forward a deal as it seems, but it’s just another story that will doubtlessly be forgotten and buried. This is what Mastercard had to say after the court case
‘Lying and deception and bad faith are standard operating procedure at FIFA.’
Adam C. Silverstein, a lawyer for MasterCard in their successful action against FIFA, New York, December 1, 2006
FIFA will be holding presidential elections in 2011 and at the moment it seems that neither Platini nor Bin Hammam are unwilling to challenge Blatter for this term, the complicated corridors of power at FIFA it seems restricting both as the South American vote will already be behind Blatter, he has an arrangement with Ricardo Teixeira (current CBF president) who is the son in law of former FIFA president Joao Havelange with Teixeira backing Blatter in 2011 & in return Blatter will back Teixeira in 2015 when Blatter is expected to step down, and it is rumoured that Brazil hosting the 2014 world cup is partly to do with this deal as well, just as South Africa hosting it in 2010 was designed to help Blatter secure the African vote in previous elections. Both Bin Hamman & Platini have publicly said they are looking to secure terms as heads of their respective confederations when elections take place in 2011.
Whilst there is very little hard evidence of any corruption at the top level with FIFA it is clear that something isn’t right in the top level of FIFA and that Blatter use’s his connections and position to broker shady deals and run things as he wants be it inside or outside the law. The snippets into these recent scandals should help enlighten anyone that had doubts over FIFA and there ‘transparent approach to football’ as well as their attitudes to anyone who tries to dig deeper or dares to ask questions.
‘FIFA is a healthy, clean and transparent organisation with nothing to hide. There is huge public interest in FIFA, therefore we have to be as transparent as possible. We will try to communicate in a more open way so the world can believe us and be proud of their federation.’
FIFA General Secretary Urs Linsi, January 2003, on fifa.com