FIFA - Where Crime Pays

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, universally known as FIFA, was the personal fiefdom of its president, Sepp Blatter, until 2015 when the United States Justice Department indicted dozens of FIFA officials for bribery and corruption. FIFA administers football, known as soccer in Australia and North America, and organizes its immensely profitable World Cup championship once every four years. Tragically, international football has been corrupt for decades, making Blatter and other males at the top wonderfully wealthy. Blatter’s 17 years as president has been characterized as a “never-ending governance crisis”. FIFA’s most recent troubles began in 2010 when FIFA announced Russia and Qatar as the shockingly unlikely hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, a result widely believed to be the result of massive bribes. In response, Blatter announced a series of “reforms” which were actually an elaborate charade, an ongoing façade of Potemkin-like changes which made for good press releases. However, once Blatter’s successor as president, Gianni Infantino, took control, these reforms changed almost nothing. Football suffers in this way because, while FIFA is domiciled in Switzerland, it is best understood as a supra-national, stateless conglomerate answerable to no authority. This lack of accountability creates a moral hazard where football’s leaders enrich themselves with impunity, enjoying the many fruits of their perfect crimes. This will never be remedied from inside football. Although the proceedings brought by the U.S. Justice Department have secured 26 guilty pleas and verdicts, that effort is hardly a start at reforming football. Action by Switzerland and internationally is essential to reining in the “cesspit of corruption” at the world’s most popular sport.

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