2011 – a disconcerting year for sport
The year now concluding has proven to be a rather interesting one for sport around the world. We have been treated to some of the best alongside some of the worst. In the end, given the deleterious consequences for sport the bad seemed to have outdone the good.
Bolt’s false start
One of the most startling features of this year of sport was the defeat of Bolt in the 100m at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Daegu, South Korea. Bolt succumbed to the one-false start rule imposed in 2009 when, at the IAAF Congress in Berlin, only two or three national associations condemned its application.
Bolt however did not have a good year in the 100m prior to the Championships and Yohan Blake (one of his training partners who unfortunately failed a drugs test in 2009, albeit a mild stimulant), showed impressive form throughout the same period.
Astute analysts of the sport of track and field athletics knew that Bolt would have had a rather difficult time retaining his 100m crown once Blake was fit. But the way in which Bolt exited the race left many tongues wagging. Some challenged the one false start rule while others wondered whether in recognition of his comparatively poor 100m preparation, the false start was deliberate.
One thing is certain, the failure of Bolt to run the finals of the 100m left the large Jamaican contingent at the Championships standing in awe so much so that they were unable to celebrate the victory of Blake, a fellow Jamaican. They simply remained standing at a loss to understand to themselves what had happened to their athletics icon.
The analytical athletics fraternity may have had a better appreciation for Bolt’s performance noting that he was the toast of the IAAF as part of the promotion of the Championships in Daegu and did not pay as much attention as he should have to the preparation needed two year after demolishing the 100m and 200m world records in Berlin. For the entire year he never came close to the performances of 2009. Additionally, he was well aware of Blake’s preparation as compared to his own.
Football’s barrel of worms
The world of Football, long under much suspicion for corruption finally came into the international sports spotlight and the British media must have felt vindicated for the many years pursuing this organisation. The author of Lords of the Rings, a challenging document on corruption in five international sporting organisations must have felt decidedly proud that he too was vindicated by the startling revelations.
Mohammed bin Hammam was accused by the world governing body for Football, FIFA, of attempting to bribe the members of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) for their votes in the elections for the FIFA presidency. The Bahamian representative at the CFU Congress in port of Spain, Trinidad, was one of the first of the whistle blowers on the matter. He revealed photos of the monies stuffed in an envelope totalling $40,000 USD which was his ‘gift’ from Bin Hammam.
Bin Hammam was banned by FIFA for life while CFU officials, Debbie Minguell and Jason Sylvester were banned for one year each for their role in helping with the distribution of the monies at the meeting.
11 Caribbean football leaders were sanctioned by FIFA following a comprehensive investigation into the scandal that took place in Trinidad and Tobago. None was charged for accepting the money but instead for failing to reveal the matter to FIFA.
Interestingly, FIFA Vice President, Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, implicated in the scandal was allowed to resign leaving the organisation with ‘the presumption of innocence’ and therefore virtually untouchable by FIFA for his role in the fracas. More than this, Warner retains a hefty pension from FIFA.
Perhaps one of the most damning revelation in the entire episode was the tape of Warner at the meeting. London’s Daily Mail dated 12 October 2011 noted,
The speech took place in Trinidad a day after cash gifts of 40,000 US dollars (£25,000) each were handed out to the leaders of Caribbean associations.
Warner says on the video: ‘When Mohamed Bin Hammam asked to come to the Caribbean he wanted to bring some silver plaques and wooden trophies and bunting and so on, and told me to bring for 30 people would be too much luggage.
‘I told him he did not need to bring anything but if he wanted to bring anything to bring something equivalent to the value of the gift that he brought.
‘I said to him if you bring cash, I don’t want you to give cash to anybody, but when you do you can give it to the CFU and the CFU will give it to his members. Because I don’t want (it) to even remotely appear that anyone has any obligation to vote for you because of what gifts you have given them, and he fully accepted that.’
… He adds: ‘I know there are some people here who believe they are more pious than thou. If you are pious go to a church friends, but the fact is that our business is our business.
‘If there is anybody here who has a conscience and wishes to send back the money I am willing to take the money and give it back to him at any moment.’
Chuck Blazer, longstanding friend of Warner and CONCACAF General Secretary since 1990 when Warner was elected p/resident of the organisation, was the leader of the expose of the CONCACAF leader. He claimed to have cautioned Warner about the unethical nature of the Bin Hammam plan, in advance of the meeting in Trinidad.
One is not at all certain of the original intent of Blazer in exposing the deal since he has been considered as being ‘under a cloud’ of sorts about some of his overseas accounts.
Blazer was quoted in The Guardian of 6 October 2011 thus,
“There’s no question that the environment is not the same as it was,” he added. “There is considerable discord among the members, Caribbean football is in turmoil, a lot of people are up on charges and others are standing for offices to fill a power vacuum.
“I feel it would be good to be in another environment and I can operate anywhere in the world, anywhere that needs someone to run their operation well.”
The Mail dated 27 May 2011 revealed the shameful face of international Football in the year:
Nine of FIFA’s executive committee have been accused of corruption over the past seven months. ALEX KAY looks at who they are and the allegations against them.
Jack Warner (Trinidad & Tobago) – Triesman alleged he asked for £2.5m to build an education centre and for £500,000 to buy Haiti’s World Cup TV rights. He denied this. Implicated in allegations of bribery in Fifa presidential race.
Amos Adamu (Nigeria) – Filmed by the Sunday Times negotiating a £500,000 deal to sell his vote. Also accused of being paid $1.5m to back Qatar bid. Banned by Fifa, but is planning appeal.
Reynald Temarii (Tahiti) – Accused by Sunday Times of asking for £1.5m to build academy and that his confederation was offered up to $12m by backers of two bids. Banned by Fifa.
Issa Hayatou (Cameroon) – Unpublished evidence in the Sunday Times accused the president of the CAF of being paid $1.5m by Qatar to support their bid. Qatar have denied the allegation.
Worawi Makudi (Thailand) – Triesman accused the Thai FA president of asking for the TV rights to a friendly between England and Thailand. He has denied the claim.
Nicolas Leoz (Paraguay) – Triesman claimed the president of South America’s federation had asked him for a knighthood in return for voting for England’s bid. Leoz has denied the allegation.
Mohamed Bin Hammam (Qatar) – Sepp Blatter’s challenger in Fifa’s presidential election – has been accused by Chuck Blazer of offering bribes for votes. Bin Hammam has denied the accusations.
Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast) – Anouma was also accused of having been paid $1.5m by Qatar in return for supporting its bid. However, he has denied the allegations as well.
Ricardo Teixeira (Brazil) – Lord Triesman alleged that the president of the Brazilian FA had invited him to ‘come and tell me what you have got for me’. Teixeira called the claim ‘absurd’.
Even as FIFA was conducting its investigations into the various scandals around the world, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was investigating FIFA’s former bosses, Joao Havelange, one of the sport leaders featured in Lords of the Rings. The investigation was about accusations that while being head of FIFA and an IOC member he accepted approximately $1m US in bribes from ISL, a sports marketing company that had been involved with several major international sports organisations.
The IOC was contemplating heavy sanctions against the 93 year old who has been with the organisation since 1963. Like Warner in the case of FIFA he resigned from the IOC prior to the sanctions being imposed. Many are however of the view that he may well have been involved in much more than the $1m US deal.
Not to be outdone revelations also came to light that Isaac Hayatou, a FIFA big wig and an IOC member, along with Lamine Diack, President of the IAAF, also received monies from ISL. The IOC considered them worthy only of warnings rather than suspension.
For his part Hayatou received 100,000 Swiss francs in 1995. His defence is that the money was for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the African Football Confederation (CAF).
Diack received three payments of 30,000 Swiss francs which he said was intended to help him rebuild his home in Senegal which had been destroyed by a fire in 1993. He seemed incapable of explaining why the monies were not paid in one instalment rather than three. At the time he was IAAF Vice President.
Further investigations into the now bankrupt ISL reveals that IAAF former boss, Primo Nebiolo, also featured in The Lords of The Rings, and long considered a maverick in the world of sport, was a recipient of much ‘corrupt money from the organisation.
The Daily Mail edition of 27 December 2011 stated:
A massive bribes scandal could end with some of world sport’s leaders going to jail. Senior staff sacked from the bankrupt Swiss-based ISL sports marketing company are claiming that a list exists of 20 top international sports officials who received kickbacks in return for granting lucrative marketing contracts.
One name said to be on the list is Italy’s Primo Nebiolo, who dominated international athletics from 1981 until his death in 1999. German newspapers also reported that lawyers investigating the collapse of ISL claim to have discovered proof that ‘black’ money was paid to officials.
ISL, which went down last week with debts of £278million, was created by German businessman Horst Dassler, who played a major role in the 1970s and 1980s, arranging the elections of officials close to him to high positions in world sport.
In 1981, Dassler put Nebiolo in power at the International Amateur Athletic Federation – and ISL got the marketing contract for the next 20 years. Most of these deals were agreed in private, with no transparent, competitive tendering.
Former ISL boss Andrew Craig said: ‘Horst’s immense contacts were a great benefit to ISL in securing those contracts.’
ISL planned to float as a public company last year. In documents now in the possession of Sportsmail, the company boasted: ‘Our business was founded on the back of special personal relationships.’
Earlier this week two former ISL accountants, Hans-Jurg Schmid and Hans-Peter Weber, were charged in Switzerland with criminally diverting more than £40m to a secret account in Liechtenstein.
FIFA officials claim that this money was paid by Brazil’s Globo-TV company for rights to screen next year’s World Cup.
Sportsmail has acquired the secret minutes of the last meeting of the directors of ISL before the bankruptcy. They refer to the money as a ‘loan’.
Swiss newspapers claim that the Globo money was hidden in a foundation in Liechtenstein and that it was a slush fund for paying kickbacks. It is believed that ISL set up other secret accounts in Liechtenstein and the Caribbean.
Corruption seems almost endemic in sport. It is very unfortunate that while the leaders of sport continue to spout platitudes of the positive values attendant to sport many are deeply involved in the worst forms of corruption.
One is amazed that each time the corruption is made public the organisations claim their eagerness to engage in corrective measures.
Interestingly too, many of those overseeing the reform of these sports organisations may well not themselves be entirely clean.