The arrests in Zurich of the sports world’s most powerful executives yesterday may signal an important change in what is arguably the most popular sport in the world.
For decades, FIFA, its President Sepp Blatter, and his executive team have been unaffected by consistent accusations of corruption related to their choice of sports venues for the World Cup, regional events, and their doling out stadiums to small countries around the world as part of their elections strategy.
For years they have generally been viewed as above the law of nations.
I saw first hand the swooning of government officials in East Timor during Mr. Blatter’s visit. The national police and their counterparts in Portugal’s Guardia National Republica, provided 24-hour security for Mr. Blatter as he was afforded the attention reserved for heads of state.
Leaving behind a small football pitch and small office building named after the local Prime Minister, Mr. Blatter was whisked away to the next venue, ahead of the June 2011 elections.
Drop a little candy to get the votes of the smaller countries.
Receive a lot of candy for the choice of the World Cup venue.
Dramatic corruption allegations surround FIFA. The corruption case against the FIFA officials will doubtless shed more light on the truth of FIFA’s operations that goes beyond allegations.
Sepp Blatter ran unopposed in the 2011 FIFA elections and was re-elected for a fourth term with 186 of the 203 votes.
In his campaign, Blatter had stipulated that if re-elected in 2011, he would not run again for president. Despite this promise, he is seen as the front-runner for the next elections.
Collecting corruption evidence against high ranking officials is quite difficult. Especially when that evidence may implicate other important officials in national governments around the world.
Thus, it is not at all clear what results will flow from the arrests and whether Blatter will eventually be included. Regardless of the legal outcome, responsibility for the state of FIFA’s affairs falls squarely on Mr. Blatter’s shoulders.
Catching people in wrong doing AFTER it has occurred is far more expensive than anti-corruption through prevention. The harms have already occurred and prosecution will never truly make individuals or society “whole.”
For this reason the importance of the FIFA arrests may be their role as a catalyst for change in FIFA and other international sports activities in the future.
# # # End # # #