Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Corruption throughout his Presidency, but Blatter thinks he's the man to steer FIFA, and who has the courage to stop him?

I recently came across an article on FIFA's own website, dated 29 January 2003, which if it weren't so sad, I would find quite funny. It is an interview with then recently-elected FIFA General Secretary, Dr Urs Linsi, and his answer to the first question is particularly ironic.

Partly it states: "In the first six months of 2002, FIFA attracted too much negative publicity, but this changed during and after the FIFA World Cup™ as we delivered a perfect tournament. In the last six months of the year, everything calmed down, both inside and outside FIFA, and we proved that FIFA is a healthy, clean and transparent organisation with nothing to hide."

Yes, you read that correctly.

FIFA proved it is a healthy, clean and transparent organisation with nothing to hide.

This was in 2003, remember, five years after Sepp Blatter was elected President, three years after the final illegal ISL payments were made to Joao Havelange, Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz et al. (Sepp Blatter has now admitted he knew about a 1.5 million Swiss Franc payment to Havelange in 1997, although he feigned ignorance when asked about it by Andrew Jennings and did not divulge it to anyone) and a little over ten years before a slew of FIFA ExCo members were banned for various transgressions involving corruption and/or unethical behaviour.

Here's another quote from the Linsi interview: "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 concerning football matters so the world can believe us and be proud of their federation."

How did that work out? There is still a clamour for fairness, transparency and accountability, and it is only recently that Sepp Blatter has begun to even pretend to address this problem. Here we are, eleven years on, and the same old problems still exist. And everyone at FIFA knows and has always known that it is corrupt.

There is a telling comment by Tongan former FIFA ExCo member Ahongalu Fusimalohi in the transcript of his 2011 Court of Arbitration for Sport case against FIFA:

"351 Ahongalu Fusimalohi: It has to be strictly confidential.
352 Reporter: I just got the impression that to a certain extent the whole organization works like
353 Ahongalu Fusimalohi: Yes. It just, I mean, the eleventh commandment of the CIA, just don’t
get caught, don’t get caught, that’s it."

Not surprisingly, the CAS found, amongst other findings:

"130. On the basis of the evidence before it, the Panel is of the view that the Appellant
realized that he was offered some significant money in exchange for an improper
and shady lobbying activity. In spite of this awareness, the Appellant set out the
conditions under which he would assist Franklin Jones. The attitude of the
Appellant throughout the whole Auckland Meeting clearly establishes that his
collaboration with the alleged lobbyists was linked to the personal profit he could
131. In short, the Panel is comfortably satisfied that a gift or other advantage was
offered to the Appellant and that, accordingly, the first requirement of article 11
para. 1 FCE is met.
b) Incitement to breach duty or behave dishonestly for the benefit of a third

I'll write more on this case soon in another blog post about the 2022 World Cup hosting bidding process.

So there we have it. Years and years of unbridled corruption and unethical behaviour, known by FIFA and Sepp Blatter, Illegal payments he knew about but did not divulge, and numerous ExCo members banned for illegal and unethical behaviour, and based on the comments of Fusimalohi above, these are the ones who were stupid enough to get caught.

And this man, Sepp Blatter, wants us to believe that he is the man to steer the FIFA ship through the stormy waters.

And in case you are tempted to think that Urs Linsi was speaking just for himself - he was, after all, fired from his job in 2007, shortly after Vice-President Julio Grondona had negotiated an expensive new contract for him - take note also that Linsi himself said in his interview: "Communications is now directly linked to the President, because FIFA should speak with one voice." It is hard to believe that Blatter would let this interview make it all the way to the FIFA website if it were not an accurate reflection of the organisation's views.

Blatter has been FIFA President for sixteen years, knowing full that the organisation was corrupt before he took on the role and has been corrupt ever since. He even manoeuvred to prevent his only opponent in the last election, Mohammed bin Hammam, from standing, by getting him banned.Yet the man still has the balls to tout his record on reform and has hinted that he might stand for election again.

And he might succeed too, because although he cannot be attired with the epithet 'Teflon', plenty of mud having stuck to him, he has survived due to the lack of courage of the people who can vote him out, namely the National Associations who are too scared to nominate another candidate. They know that should their nominee lose to Blatter,  the nominating association would be sure to feel Blatter's wrath in terms of reduced funding for GOAL Projects, cash grants, hosting opportunities, promotions, and the like.

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