Is FIFA for real?

For the past several months the international sports fraternity has been confronted with a continuous flow of information about the modus operandi of the world governing body for football, FIFA. Charges of corruption have inundated the international media leading to extensive damage to the global image of the sport and its lead organisation.
In this week’s Column we attempt to examine the level of seriousness of FIFA in respect of its claim to clean up its image.

This is not the first time that an international sports federation has been caught up in the throes of a scandal that points to intense corruption. Several years ago the International Olympic Committee, an organisation that prided itself as the leading sporting organisation in the world became unravelled by a major scandal.
In December 1998 accusations were being levelled that the votes of IOC members were being bought in order for certain cities to win the right to host the Olympic Games. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) initiated an investigation into the Salt Lake City bid and eventual victory regarding the right to host the Winter Olympics of 2002.
An article on the World Socialist Web Site ( credited to Martin Mc Laughlin dated 13 January 1999 revealed
A bribery scandal has forced the resignation of the leaders of the Salt Lake City group which is organizing the 2002 Winter Olympics. The revelations of the past month have demonstrated anew the pernicious consequences of the takeover of international sport by giant corporations, especially the American-based media monopolies.
Frank Joklik, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC), resigned January 8 after acknowledging that cash payments and other benefits were provided to members of the International Olympic Committee to influence the IOC’s 1995 vote which awarded the 2002 games to the Utah capital city.
Senior Vice President Dave Johnson also resigned, and SLOC ended a $10,000-a-month consulting contract with its former president Tom Welch, who headed the successful campaign to bring the Olympics to Salt Lake City.
Three days later Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini announced she would not seek reelection in 2000, as had been expected. While Corradini, a Democrat, denied that her decision had anything to do with the Olympics bribery scandal, over the past week city council members had called for her resignation.
This was just the tip of the iceberg as revelations were not in short supply thereafter. Some 13 IOC members were being accused of one form of corruption or another. It was noted, Jean-Claude Ganga, the IOC member from the Congo Republic, admitted receiving $70,000 in direct payments, as well as free medical care and a favorable position in a Utah real estate deal, which netted him $60,000. Ganga described such arrangements as “normal.”
There are allegations that the SLOC supplied visiting IOC members with prostitutes, that SLOC officials made campaign contributions to an IOC member who was running for mayor of Santiago, Chile, and that they provided college tuition for the children of IOC members from Ecuador and Libya. A cash contribution went to another IOC member from the Netherlands.
It was further stated that Hodler, the Swiss IOC official, charged that there has been extensive bribery to influence IOC selection votes at least since 1990, when Atlanta was chosen as the host city for the 1996 Summer Games. Similar scandals allegedly underlie the selection of Nagano, Japan for the 1998 Winter Games and Sydney, Australia for the 2000 Summer Games.
The revelations proved to be a major embarrassment for the IOC and the incumbent president, Juan Antonio Samaranch.
In March of 1999 it was revealed that not only did the Salt Lake City bid team break the rules of the IOC but so too did the grouping for the bid of Sydney 2000. While an investigation indicated that the latter did not engage in corruption it seemed merely a matter of definition. In some quarters a call was made for the IOC to review itself and to issue a ban on the giving of gifts to its members by Bid Committees and others with clear vested interests in accessing their support on important matters.
Actually, in December 1998 China had raised the issue of unfair tactics having been implemented in the matter of the 2000 Olympics, which it had lost to Sydney.
The IOC must have either been asleep of deliberately looked the other way as the Canadians had called for an investigation into claims of corruption re IOC members and Bid Committees as far back as 1991. Samaranch was at the helm at that time as well and failed to act on the claims made by the Canadians.
In the melee that ensued suspicions were raised over the process involving the award of the Winter Olympics of 1998 to Nagano, Japan. The BBC reported that a Japanese newspaper declared that Japanese officials spent more than $6m entertaining Olympic officials while seeking to win the bid. Indeed there were questions raised about the very selection of Nagano even within Japan.
As part of its effort to clean up the flagging image of the IOC the organisation, under Samaranch’s leadership, convened a special session for the sole purpose of expelling six of its members. The Guardian ( of the United Kingdom, in an article in its edition of 17 March 1999 stated,
The International Olympic Committee has expelled six members this afternoon for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from officials who brought the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City.
Agustin Arroyo of Ecuador, Zein El Abdin Ahmed Abdel Gadir of Sudan, Jean-Claude Ganga of the Congo Republic, Lamine Keita of Mali, Sergio Santander of Chile and Paul Wallwork of Samoa were believed to be the first IOC members kicked out for corruption in the panel’s 105 years.
The vote counts were 72-16 against Arroyo, 86-4 against Gadir, 88-2 against Ganga, 72-16 against Keita, 76-12 against Santander and 67-19 against Wallwork.
The IOC’s house cleaning exercise saw it introduce as many as 50 reforms that it hoped were extensive enough in their reach to significantly impact the organisation. The problem was however that the organisation maintained much of the same leadership, led of course by Samaranch, who continued to loom over the institution larger than life.
Enter FIFA
There are perhaps many who would argue that FIFA’s turn in respect of an expose in corruption was long overdue and that there may well still be much in the cupboards of the organisation enough to turn one’s stomach.
What has become known as the Bin Hammam Affair in some quarters began in earnest with the matter of the vote for the World Cups of 2018 and 2022. In the case of the latter which was won by Qatar the British Football Association and indeed the British government and media all seemed only too eager to cry foul and accusations were levelled profusely.
Amidst the accusations came the action of FIFA to provisionally suspend them confirm the suspension of some of its members as well and imposing fines on some.
Since these actions were taken even before the vote one would have expected that closer attention would have been undertaken by FIFA to ensure an early end to activities that were clearly going to negatively impact its image. This obviously did not happen and things grew worse.
The focus then shifted to the FIFA elections where the same Bin Hammam decided to contest the presidency against the incumbent, Sepp Blatter. As the momentum grew so too did the sordid side of the organisation emerge in the public domain. In the end, FIFA accused Bin Hammam of being involved in corruption by bribing each Caribbean Football Union (CFU) member with a $40,000 USD gift. Some did not accept the gift. CONCACAF General Secretary and long-time friend and associate of Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, Chuck Blazer, reported the matter to FIFA. The rest is history.
FIFA’s ‘penalties’
At the conclusion of the FIFA debacle Bin Hammam was banned for life while Warner took the route of resigning and left ‘with the presumption of innocence’, something that is itself difficult to understand, especially in light of the revelations of the video of Warner addressing the delegates at the meeting in Trinidad at which the alleged bribery was said to have taken place.
Some 16 CFU members were then called before the FIFA Ethics Committee where some were totally exonerated while others received a range of penalties ranging from warnings to suspension for a period of time.
A quick review of the penalties rings like some sick joke that leaves FIFA itself much of a laughing stock.
In the case of St Vincent and the Grenadines, former president, Joseph Delves, received the same treatment as Warner in that he was left alone because he was no longer involved in the organization, the local Football Federation.
On the other hand, General Secretary, Ian Hypolite, was found guilty of infringement of the following:
Article 7. Paragraph 1: The bodies and officials must observe the statutes, regulations, decisions and code of ethics of FIFA in their activities.
Article 3 Paragraphs 1 & 2: Officials are expected to be aware of the importance of their function and concomitant obligations and responsibilities. Their conduct shall reflect the fact that they support and further the principles and the objectives of FIFA in every way and refrain from anything that could be harmful to these aims and objectives. They shall respect the significance of their allegiance to FIFA, confederations, associations, leagues and clubs and represent them honestly, worthily, respectably and with integrity.
Article 9 Paragraph 1: While performing their duties, officials shall recognize their fiduciary duty, especially to FIFA, the confederations, associations, leagues and clubs
Article 14 Paragraph 1: Officials shall report any evidence of violations of conduct to the FIFA Secretary General who shall report it to the competent body.
FIFA’s ruling here suggests that Hypolite had an obligation to report to it that Warner’s speech, as per the video, violated the framework of the articles listed. For this Hypolite was banned for 30 days, 15 of which were suspended. FIFA found no evidence that Hypolite received any monies from Bin Hammam.
A quick review of the penalties to the CFU members leaves one laughing. There now seems reason to question whether FIFA really intended to do much more than get at Warner, ultimately, and in the process, defang him and all those who were close enough to him over the years that he was in FIFA’s ‘good books’.
One may well be forced to ask whether indeed FIFA’s reaction to Warner and Bin Hammam was coloured by the fact that the latter dared challenge the organisation’s status quo as epitomized by Blatter himself and that Warner may have been perceived as being willing to shift allegiance to Bin Hammam and away from Blatter.
Warner may well have a point when he claims that efforts are being made by FIFA to get at him and that he would begin his own revelations some time soon. There is little reason or anyone serious about the management of football to be anxious to hear Warner’s revelations now that he is on the outside since he may well have been an integral part to the organization for many years and instrumental in what it has become and is willing to accept as ‘normal’.
At the end of the day however, the world of sport and more particularly football, moves on, seemingly unperturbed by the FIFA debacle just as much as it has moved on with the IOC after the scandals of the 1990s.