The last two weeks have been fascinating for those of us who follow the international kleptocracy known as FIFA, the governing body of international soccer. For decades FIFA has been run like a giant fraud scheme, like Illinois state government writ large on the backs of fans, World Cup TV rights, and soccer merchandising. This has given license to men like Jack Warner of Trinidad, aka the Pirate of the Caribbean, who wields considerable influence as the head of North and Central America and the Caribbean for FIFA, to use a purported series of bribes and realpolitik to help prop up FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s power structure. Warner has build a personal fortune as regional FIFA puppet master, and every time an allegation has emerged or charges have been filed, he’s managed to escape.
Maybe not this time. The USA’s own FIFA Executive Rep, Chuck Blazer, brought bribery charges against Warner and Mohammed Bin Hamman. Now Bin Hamman is running against Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency, a big reason why this has all come to light. Bin Hamman is also the guy who orchestrated Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup (beating out the USA’s strong bid). Bin Hamman and Warner attempted to bribe Caribbean representatives with $40,000 gifts and all-expenses paid to an exclusive Port-of-Spain resort for their votes a couple of weeks back, a familiar shakedown tactic of Warner. He keeps his plebes happy, and they vote the way he dictates. And of course, we are now also learning that whispers of similar tactics used by Bin Hamman and the Qataris to secure the World Cup indeed have legs. Recent testimony by a special investigation in Parliament in London has and will continue to shed light on that situation.
Meanwhile back to Bin Hamman and Warner’s shakedown. Today Bin Hamman resigned as a candiate for the FIFA presidency, and Warner certainly faces serious consequences. It’s ironic that these allegations have come from the USA’s Chuck Blazer, whose assent to power depended heavily on supporting Warner and basically doing what the Pirate says. But again, this entire mess helps Sepp Blatter secure the presidency for another term, and perhaps makes the case that the 2022 World Cup bidding process was irrevocably flawed and needs to be abandoned and reconvened. And lest you think Uncle Sepp is innocent in all this – he is just a culpable. The exception being that when he flies in to say, southern Africa, or the Oceania Confederation to influence voters, he provides the sugar in the form of ‘developmental grants’ or ‘infrastructure projects’. As an Illinois resident, it all sounds so familiar…
The final bit of irony was Bin Hamman’s parting shot on the way out. He actually accused Sepp Blatter of having knowledge of the bribes-for-bid shenanigans involving the 2022 World Cup – a scheme his own team was concocting – which would place Blatter in hot water for failing to report an ethical violation. So to recap: Bin Hamman accused Blatter of not reporting his (BH’s) own bribery schemes. One would guess in an effort to get Blatter suspended as well. This is how vindicative and screwed up FIFA is. Is it still too late to get Grant Wahl on the ticket for the FIFA presidency?
If you want to read more about this, Big Soccer Blogger Bill Archer is the man with the plan. He’s been following Warner, Blatter, and company for years, posting links to and summarizing the various nuggets of goodness/badness as they appear. It’s going to get weirder and weirder before a resolution and Bill has the goods.
Around here we have a couple of questions:
- Can FIFA still have its Presidential election next week with one candidate resigning in disgrace and the other facing ethical charges?
- If Blatter is re-elected does he lose the rest of any remaining credibility and ability to lead?
- How badly does this hurt the international game in the long run? The big club teams are already angry about International call-ups and tournaments; how long before they flex their muscles in open revolt?
And most importantly…
- Does this mean FIFA can/will vacate the World Cup to Qatar 2022 fiasco and re-do the bid?