Fifa in Crisis

This page catches up the most recent headline developments in what’s happening at football’s governing body, FIFA. For a more complete backstory, click on the site search for FIFA or Blatter.

 

Fifa looks for a fresh start – 26 January

 

The scheduled election to replace Sepp Blatter as President of Fifa will apparently still go ahead next month.

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DECEMBER 21 2015 – Eight-year Fifa ban may spell end for defiant “punching ball” Blatter

Fifa’s ethics committee on Monday handed down eight-year bans from “all football-related activity” for Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini. Blatter says he will appeal.

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OCTOBER 30, 2015

Today’s Lunch With the FT subject is Fifa president Sepp Blatter. It leaves a pretty unpleasant taste.

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OCTOBER 29, 2015 – Fifa’s House of Cards Wobbles Still Further

sun(The Sun/Tomorrow’ Papers Today)

Fifa boss Sepp Blatter appeared to let slip that the bidding process for the 2018 World Cup finals was a waste of everyone’s time and money.

England’s FA, which had spent some $30m on its bid for the tournament, was predictably incensed.

And Blatter also spoke about the 2022 tournament award to Qatar.

But don’t worry, help is on the way…

It’s hard to see how the body can be reformed when those doing the “reforming” have been part of it. Unfortunately, the reputation of football itself has been trashed in the process.  It might be time to scrap it altogether and start over. If that means skipping a finals while it’s all sorted out, then maybe that’s the price we have to pay.

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OCTOBER 17, 2015

Fresh problems for Fifa and its suspended President Sepp Blatter amid an investigation of claims over Germany’s award of the 2006 finals, following reporting by Der Spiegel.

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OCTOBER 13, 2015

FIFA President Sepp Blatter may be suspended on Thursday by the organization he runs for 90 days. That might still be the least of his worries.

blatter(The Sun/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

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SEPTEMBER 14, 2015

FIFA still-for-now President Sepp Blatter is under renewed pressure as authorities are investigating the award of television rights for the 2010 and 2014 tournaments and the connection with former FIFA executive Jack Warner.

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AUGUST 24, 2015

The BBC has an exclusive interview with Fifa President Sepp Blatter, who says, wait for it, that he’s “clean” and there’s “no corruption in football.” Meanwhile, from a perspective of Fifa making friends and polishing its credibility, this maybe doesn’t help…

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JULY 31, 2015

South Korean businessman Chung Mong-joon may be set to stand for the Presidency of Fifa, believing that Uefa boss Michel Platini is “not the right man” for the top job. The BBC reported him as saying:

“If I get elected, my job is not to enjoy the luxury of the office. My job is to change it. It will be very difficult for Mr Platini to have any meaningful reforms.”

Meanwhile, Peter Berlin writes at Politico that the problem with Platini is that he is “Blatter with a French accent.”

The ferocity and speed of the criticism [against Platini] suggests that the rivals fear that the distinct whiff of dirty laundry may well prove an electoral asset with the FIFA voters who may not all want change. In the letter announcing his candidacy, Platini failed to address directly the issue of corruption. The UEFA website, quoting from the letter, said its president promised to “give FIFA back the dignity and the position it deserves.”

But one thing is sure – there is a lot of politics to be played before February’s election.

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JULY 28, 2015

Michel Platini, the French President of Uefa, is expected to announce sometime this week that he will be a candidate for the Presidency of Fifa in succession to Sepp Blatter.

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JULY 24, 2015

Saturday sees the world’s football great and good gather in St Petersburg, Russia, to observe the draw for the qualifying stages of the 2018 World Cup.

Meanwhile, the man in charge of Russia’s 2018 tournament organization tells the BBC that resigning Fifa President Sepp Blatter is a “victim” and has always been “a friend of our country.” The draw marks Blatter’s first trip outside Switzerland since the Fifa corruption investigations escalated. He will appear at Saturday’s draw alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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JULY 20, 2015

Fifa President Sepp Blatter found himself the target of a protest against corruption during a press conference in Zurich. British comedian Simon Brodkin was escorted away by security and the meeting was halted temporarily. When Blatter returned, he announced details of a new Fifa presidential election in February next year, saying he would definitely not be a candidate.

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JULY 19, 2015

Fifa President Sepp Blatter is expected on Monday to outline plans for reform of world football’s governing body. The BBC reports that 16 December could be the date for a new Presidential election, and that Uefa head Michel Platini may have been approached to stand for the post.

Meanwhile, British MPs are set to launch an inquiry into why key institutional players in the Fifa corruption scandal did not do more to expose wrong-doing.

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JULY 2, 2015

US authorities investigating allegations of corruption at World Soccer’s governing body FIFA issued an extradition request for seven top executives, according to Swiss officials.

The AP writes that:

The seven will be heard by Zurich cantonal (State) police and granted a 14-day period to respond to federal officials about the extradition request, the Swiss justice ministry said.

Swiss justice officials will then rule “within a few weeks” on whether to extradite them. That ruling can be appealed to Switzerland’s top criminal court and supreme court.

Meanwhile, France24 reported that a former FIFA official had said that the organization “will be forced to make certain basic reforms or it will lose big sponsors.”

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JUNE 22, 2015

Diego Maradona as head of FIFA? Why not…?

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June 15, 2015

Details were released of the government’s plea agreement with former Fifa official Chuck BlazerThe Guardian reports that Blazer “agreed to become an informant for the FBI and US justice department – and collect evidence implicating other Fifa executives – in return for immunity from prosecution.”

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June 13, 2015

Just when you thought Fifa couldn’t become any more of a pantomime, the villain is still behind you…

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June 11, 2015

Fifa’s Director of Communications, Walter De Gregorio, resigned after a recent appearance on Swiss TV.

No joke for Jack Warner – he of citing The Onion fame –  who apparently thought John Oliver was criticizing Trinidad and Tobago in a recent spot on local TV.

Meanwhile, a judge ordered federal prosecutors to unseal the plea agreement between the government and former Fifa official Chuck BlazerESPN reports that the government has until Friday to apply to redact any portion of the document and until Monday to decide whether to appeal the ruling.

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June 10, 2015

Swiss investigators visited the offices of Fifa in Zurich – Fifa denies it was a “raid” – and apparently took IT material from the offices of senior officials, including Sepp Blatter and Jerome Valcke, as part of inquiries into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Meanwhile, the bidding process for the 2026 finals was suspended. According to Valcke, “in the current situation, it’s “nonsense to start any bidding process for the time being.”

As real life and satire rapidly morph, John Oliver took to Trinidadian TV with a special message for former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner…

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June 7, 2015

A leading Fifa official said that Russia and Qatar could lose their World Cup tournaments in 2018 and 2022 if evidence arose that bribes played a role in the process. Fifa compliance chief Domenico Scala said in an interview that “should evidence be present that the awarding to Qatar and Russia only came about with bought votes, then the awarding could be void.”

Meanwhile, the BBC reported that it had seen documents showing “what happened to the $10m sent from Fifa to accounts controlled by former vice-president Jack Warner.”

Fifa’s self-financed movie, United Passions, was released in the US this weekend, apparently taking just $607 at the box office. According to CNNcritics called it “unwatchable” and “cinematic excrement.”

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June 4, 2015

Even as the long-awaited clean-up-shake-out-turn-it-upside-down, comprehensive reform process gets under way at Fifa headquarters,

it turns out that Fifa had paid off the Football Association of Ireland to head off a legal challenge after Ireland were robbed of a place in the 2010 World Cup finals.

Meanwhile, with impeccable timing…

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June 3, 2015 – ‘I and others…’

Testimony by former Fifa executive Chuck Blazer reveals an admission that he “and others” on the organization’s executive committee “agreed to accept bribes” connected to the award of the 2010 World Cup to South Africa.

And, as you’d imagine in a crisis like this, there’s plenty more where that came from, including a redaction that has prompted plenty of speculation.

Other former Fifa figures at the center of the corruption allegations also appear ready to talk.

The FBI is now – apparently alongside Swiss authorities – investigating the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 finals. While as for Blazer himself, there might be trouble brewing at his second Trump Tower apartment:

It might also be worth taking a look at his blog “Travels With Chuck Blazer and his Friends” while it’s still online.

Finally, though, with much more – surely – to come in this story, if you read only one thing about the importance of slow, determined investigative journalism in the Fifa case, read this from the Washington Post:

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June 2, 2015 – Blatter quits – What now for Fifa?

After Fifa President Sepp Blatter announced he would step down in a hastily arranged press conference in Zurich, amid ongoing criminal probes in the US and Switzerland into allegations of corruption – ABC News reported that Blatter himself was under investigation –  discussion has turned to who might replace him and what direction world football’s governing body might now take.

Dave Zirin at The Nation writes that the 79-year-old Blatter was “pompous, bizarre, and off-key to the last breath,” and because he “took no questions and gave no concrete reasons for his departure [he made] speculation the order of the day.”

World Cup sponsors welcomed the move. Coca Cola said it was a “positive step” and would help Fifa “transform itself rapidly into a much-needed 21st Century structure and institution.” Visa, meanwhile, issued this forceful statement:

visa

Amid the general euphoria among football fans worldwide, there is a general realization that, regardless of why Blatter chose to go now, there is significant work to do to to restore Fifa’s reputation.

Simon Kuper at the FT writes on why Blatter’s departure will not, in itself, cure Fifa’s ills, while David Goldblatt at The Guardian says it’s “time to clean out the stables.”

Perhaps he [Blatter] knows that the Swiss and US attorney general’s office investigations will eventually reach him. Perhaps he really is as weary and forlorn as he appeared at the lectern and the thought of battles to come no longer appeals. Perhaps we should take him at his word, that he knows that Fifa just cannot continue as it has been and that the prerequisite of any change is his departure. Either way we should salute the work and words of investigative journalists (take a bow, Andrew Jennings), Fifa whistleblowers, political activists and critics and judicial agencies that have forced him and the organisation to this point.

There is also renewed speculation about the fate of the next two World Cup tournaments – Russia in 2018 and – particularly – Qatar in 2022.

Dave Wetzel at Yahoo Sports writes:

The entire thing is reprehensible. It’s almost unfathomable. Thousands of the most disadvantaged people on Earth will die to build a pointless playground for the most advantaged people on Earth.

It’s something out of the Middle Ages.

It’s Sepp Blatter’s FIFA taken to its ultimately awful conclusion.

So end it. No more Qatar. If it can be proven the bid was fixed, even better, but regardless this shouldn’t be anything that FIFA, soccer fans or, most pointedly, corporate sponsors should condone.

Qatar isn’t ready to be the world’s host. Not when this is how it builds the house.

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May 28/29, 2015 – Blatter re-elected as Prince Ali withdraws

UPDATE: 1.30PM ET, FRI MAY 29 – Sepp Blatter was re-elected as Fifa President after his sole challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, withdrew rather than force a second round of voting.

In his speech before the first vote, the 79-year-old Blatter promised that reform of the beleaguered organization would begin “tomorrow.”

What now?

 

UPDATE: 1PM ET, FRI MAY 29 – There will be a second round of voting, after the first round did not produce the two-thirds majority required. Prince Ali received 73 votes, Sepp Blatter received 133. 

In the second round, a simple majority will be sufficient.

 

UPDATE: 11AM ET, FRI MAY 29 – Voting is under way. Both candidates addressed the Congress before the 209 member countries began casting their votes.

 

UPDATE: 9AM ET, FRI MAY 29 – As the latest allegations of corruption against World football’s governing body continue to swirl, voting is expected to start within the next hour in the election for Fifa President. 

Incumbent Sepp Blatter, who has led Fifa for 17 years, is seeking a fifth term in office. He has only one challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan. Uefa has signaled it will vote for the Prince, while other influential figures have supported Blatter, making it likely that neither candidate will secure a two-thirds majority. In that event there will be a run-off, with a simple majority of the 209 members sufficient.

Here’s how the voting process works.

You can watch proceedings live on YouTube via FifaTV here:

On Friday morning Blatter called for “unity” ahead of the voting, saying that Fifa was “at a turning point” in the wake of this week’s arrests of several top officials.

His address was briefly interrupted by Palestinian protesters, with the Congress due to discuss a motion to expel Israel.

 

MIDNIGHT ET, THURS 28

indy(The Independent/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

Fifa President Sepp Blatter continues to resist calls to step aside in light of the latest corruption allegations swamping the organization, and appears poised to win re-election to a fifth term on Friday in Zurich.

Uefa chief Michel Platini on Thursday urged Blatter to resign, but in a speech formally opening Fifa’s Congress, Blatter vowed to “fix” the organization, saying he could not be held responsible for others’ actions and that “It must fall to me to uphold responsibility for the well-being of the organisation.”

(Sky News)

World Football Insider reported that Platini had later been in discussions with officials from other associations ahead of Friday’s vote. Meanwhile, the head of US Soccer Sunil Gulati said that he will be among those supporting Blatter’s only challenger, Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein, and that the election could be “closer than people were projecting some weeks ago.”

WFI reports:

UEFA decided against boycotting the congress with Platini saying today [Thursday] the Jordanian would get a minimum 45 or 46 votes from UEFA member federations. The Jordanian’s problem lies in bagging votes from the rest of the 209 FIFA delegates, with many of those in AFrica, Asia and Oceania self-confessed Blatter disciples.

A total of 105 votes is needed to win the election.

Despite protests on the streets of Zurich, Blatter received public backing from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who denounced the arrests of Fifa officials as US overreach and said it was all a plot to ruin Russia’s hosting of the World Cup in 2018. Joshua Keating writes at Slate:

Putin does have reason to worry: After yesterday’s arrests, Swiss officials announced that they are opening an investigation into allegations of corruption in the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The Russian bid has faced allegations of bribery since the decision was made in 2010, including reports in the British press that a senior European soccer official was given a Picasso in exchange for his support.  A controversial FIFA-commissioned investigation—that was subsequently disowned by its own investigator—cleared Russia along with Qatar of any wrongdoing last year, though it also noted that the Russian bid team had made “only a limited amount of documents available for review.”

As is often the case, though, regardless of what happens both with Friday’s leadership election and how the corruption allegations play out, it will be the World Cup sponsors who likely have the biggest stick to bring about change within Fifa. And, so far, they’re keeping their cards close to their chests.

The FT looks at how the “moneymaking machine still spins.”

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May 27, 2015 – Fifa waits for the other muddy boot to drop

World football’s governing body Fifa is in turmoil after several leading current and former officials were accused by US investigators of offenses including racketeering, fraud and money laundering, involving millions of dollars and stretching back several years.

The subjects of the US indictments – nine with Fifa connections and five corporate executives – who now face extradition, did not include Fifa President Sepp Blatter, who is – at least for now – up for re-election to a fifth term on Friday; yet Wednesday’s developments have again raised questions about his reign at the head of the organization.

Announcing the 47-count charges, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that instances of corruption at Fifa covered in the allegations date back to 1991. Since then, she said, officials had “used their positions of trust within their respective organizations to solicit bribes from sports marketers in exchange for the commercial rights to their soccer tournaments.”

“They did this over and over, year after year, tournament after tournament.”

The Associated Press outlines the 12 “schemes” alleged by prosecutors.

Dan Roberts at The Guardian explains that before her recent appointment as AG, Lynch had spent years working on the case, and how a “well-placed insider” had helped bring events to today’s – at least for now – conclusion. He writes:

The long arm of American law enforcement first caught up with what US attorney general Loretta Lynch calls international football’s “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption racket while chasing a mobility scooter down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Inside the scooter was Chuck Blazer, a suburban soccer dad who had risen near to the top of the sport’s governing body, Fifa, and by 2011 was living the high life in two apartments above Fifa’s regional office in nearby Trump Tower: one for him and one, reputedly, for his cats.

In a dramatic day that began with early morning arrests in a luxury hotel in Zurich, a story first reported by the New York Times snowballed as more details emerged. After Fifa’s spokesman somehow described the developments as being “good” for Fifa, corporate sponsors weighed in; Visa, for example, saying its “disappointment and concern…is profound.”

Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post looks at the “human toll of Fifa’s corruption” in the deaths of migrant workers in Qatar, during that country’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup. Swiss authorities are currently pursuing a separate investigation into the award of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, with which Fifa says it is “fully cooperating as the injured party”.

Carl Bialik at FiveThirtyEight writes on how Fifa’s structure “lends itself to corruption” while the NYT‘s Matt Apuzzo and Jeremy Schaap of ESPN tell Gwen Ifill on PBS Newshour why it took so long to crack down on the organization. According to Schaap:

A lot of it is about the fact that FIFA operates under Swiss law as essentially nothing more than a nonprofit, like a yodeling association. That’s often the analogy that is thrown out there.

[…]

So the fact that the Swiss cooperated and worked hand-in-hand with the U.S. Department of Justice and are conducting their own investigation, I think the importance of that cannot be overstated. And once the Swiss determine that they are going to oversee organizations such FIFA and the IOC in a different way, that might force them to be more accountable.

Owen Gibson at The Guardian wonders if today’s events represent the beginning of the end for Blatter’s Fifa.

For many in Switzerland, Fifa has gone from a source of pride to an embarrassment. The mood has changed and for Blatter, whatever the outcome of the vote on Friday, this is unlikely to be the end of the story. Following his grandstanding speeches at Fifa gatherings, Blatter likes to end with a flourish and the catchphrase: “For the game, for the world”.

Finally, It’s worth re-watching John Oliver’s takedown from last year at the beginning of the World Cup.

(HBO)

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26 May, 2015

* SPORTS * Swiss law enforcement authorities are understood to have moved early on Wednesday to arrest a number of top officials of FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, ahead of expected indictments in the US alleging wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, the New York Times reports. Fifa President Sepp Blatter was not among those arrested. Blatter is up for re-election on Friday.

The New York Times’ Michael Schmidt has been tweeting from the lobby of the hotel in Zurich where the arrests took place.

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