FIFA – a state of confusion
In recent weeks we have been hearing of the results of the latest inquiry conducted in the world of sport, that of the governing body for football, FIFA, as it appears to investigate itself.
It seems a common practice for international and regional sports organisations to rush to conduct inquiries into themselves once the red flag is raised about their mode of operation in one aspect or another. We saw this with the International Olympic Committee under then president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, of Spain, when the international media made startling revelations about the corruption that had been associated with the award of the Winter Olympics of 2006 to Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Samaranch at the time quickly appointed a high-powered Commission led by former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, to investigate the organization.
Of course the matter of selecting a high-profile individual to head such an inquiry is itself often intended to give the impression that there is a level of seriousness to the investigation and that is should therefore stand scrutiny if only because of the perceived integrity and stature of those leading the process.
One wonders though if, despite the perceived and actual integrity of the individuals chosen to lead and serve on such high-powered Commissions, the real issues are not somehow quietly pushed aside and instead, the world is offered a plethora of recommendations that leaves everyone involved in the issues that were being investigated largely unscathed and everything returns to business as usual.
The IOC’s eager ethical foray under the Kissinger-led Commission may well have been needed given the fact that the organization had been severely stunned by the 1992 publication of The Lords of the Rings: Power, Money and Drugs in the Modern Olympics, written by Simons and Jennings.
Four years after the first publication Jennings wrote a sequel called, The New Lords of the Rings: Olympic Corruption and How to Buy Gold Medals
The challenge is whether FIFA and others under the ethical microscope today are any different in their mode of operation today and to what extent these inquiries that start immediately following any sort of revelations in the media are intended to effect a change in their modus operandi.
World Cup Issues
It is most interesting that FIFA chose to investigate the election of the World Cups of 2018 and 2022. One perhaps needs to ask why did FIFA deem it necessary to conduct investigations into these particular editions of the prestigious competitions.
Some would suggest that given the revelations, albeit after the fact, of some of the activities of some of the leading figures in the sport of football and of FIFA itself one would have suggested a much more far-reaching investigation into this international organization.
If as the FIFA leadership suggests there was nothing wrong with the bidding process or with the election process that determined the hosts of the World Cups of 2018 and 2022, why then conduct any sort of investigation?
Surely, if an organization is certain that the way in which it conducts its affairs is above board then there is absolutely no reason to engage in the costly exercise of conducting investigations led by high-powered individuals.
The thesis here is that there must be a reason for an organization like FIFA to dismiss out of hand the claims of wrongdoing in respect of the award of the next two editions of its extravagant World Cups yet expend its resources on investigations.
There may well be reason o believe that at best the investigations are intended to somehow save face and perhaps embellish the image of the organization.
The issue is really can the image of the organization be repaired.
Many around the world wonder about the election of Qatar as the host for the World Cup only to have a global discourse start immediately thereafter in respect of the timing of the event.
To have an international discussion on the weather conditions in Qatar during the summer months when the World Cup is usually played is absurd to say the least. Was this not taken into consideration when the bid was being evaluated and discussed by the football authorities?
Did the voting members of FIFA, the football members of this organization around the world, not examine in detail the bids submitted?
Did the voting members not know that Qatar is exceedingly hot in the summer months and that the heat may well be unbearable for the players to consistently perform at their best under such sweltering heat day after day?
Or is it that the members of this prestigious international sport organization believed that Qatar has such vast economic resources that it could easily construct all the required stadia and have them all fully air-conditioned so as to avoid the health problems that would otherwise be associated with the existing conditions?
What we wish to bring to the fore here is the seeming inconsistency with regard to the decision to award Qatar the World Cup and the global discourse on the timing of the event that is currently taking place a few years after the decision was made.
That some have been discussing the possibility of changing the timing of the Qatar World Cup to what would be the winter months is another example of how the system works.
Everyone knows that the European leagues all utilize the winter moths for their annual programmes in order to complete the schedule in April/May. To request that they completely overturn this approach to facilitate the Qatar World Cup may well lead to utter confusion in Europe as well as everywhere around the world where the game is played. It is not impossible but the consequences are immeasurable.
There are some who still ponder the award of the World Cup to South Africa come years ago.
Some ask whether it was part of a deal made earlier?
Others raise issues over the remarkable split of the African vote in the FIFA elections at which the president of the African football governing body, Isaac Hayatou, of Cameroon, contested against Sepp Blatter for the leadership of the international body.
Many still raise concerns over the role of the CONCACAF vote in the aforementioned elections and of course whether or not Austin ‘Jack’ Warner was influential in this regard.
Indeed many were surprised that given the number of FIFA members with some sort of ethnic affinity to Africa opted out of supporting Hayatou at the time.
In FIFA’s most recent elections some seem to think that Warner was in support of Bin Hammam in the contest for the presidency of the organization and that this is what allowed for him to be where he is today in resect of the revelations that emerged regarding a range of contentious issues.
A recent article in the Trinidad Express Newspaper dated 17 March 2014 stated, The Daily Telegraph in London yesterday reported that former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner and his family were paid almost US$2 million from a Qatari firm linked to the country’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup.
According to the Telegraph, Warner appears to have been personally paid US$1.2 million from a company controlled by a former Qatari football official shortly after FIFA’s decision to award the country the tournament.
This revelation comes years after Warner resigned from FIFA and all issues pertaining to his involvement in matters while in FIFA were therefore ended.
It is amazing that the rules of engagement with FIFA are such that one has only to resign from the organization and that puts an end to whatever ought to have been investigated.
The list of issues raised in an investigative report undertaken and published in the Trinidad Express is exhaustive and tells an ominous tale.
Even more intriguing is the Daily News story of 1 November 2014 that read…The most crucial Olympic ring of the 2012 London Games was a simple keychain, wired for sound and presented to top international soccer executive Chuck Blazer — a cooperating witness for federal law enforcement agents.
The corrupt and corpulent Blazer, once the sport’s No. 1 powerbroker in the United States, is alleged to have collected untold millions during his 20-year reign — running up a staggering $29 million in credit card charges to help fuel his extravagant lifestyle, which included a pricey Trump Tower apartment for his cats.
But a wide-ranging Daily News investigation revealed the feds flipped the 450-pound Blazer, who at the behest of the FBI and IRS discreetly placed his keychain — a tiny microphone embedded in its specially altered fob — on a nearby table as a parade of international figures visited Blazer at various venues, including the London Olympics.
Like Warner, Blazer, known as the whistleblower on his long time friend from Trinidad and Tobago, resigned from FIFA. That he is today exposed as having collaborated extensively with the FBI tells a tale that is near unbelievable.
Interestingly, FIFA’s investigation into the bids for the World Cups of 2018 and 2022, concluded with a 350 page report prepared and presented by Michael Garcia. However FIFA’s chief adjudicator, Hans-Joachim Eckert, offered a 42 page summary of the same report for official release, something that has angered Garcia and much of the international football fraternity.
What then are we to take from the FIFA chronicles?
Why should we accept the outcome of the most recent FIFA investigation?
Is it any wonder that so many people are heavily critical of the report that the organization seems not too eager to make public?
Can FIFA change its mode of operation?
Can a leopard change its spots?
Indeed the questions linger on.