Are we really to believe that the indiscretions of FIFA’s finance director Markus Kattner have only been discovered in the past few days? Do they really think that their member federations, the watching press and the rest of the football world are that stupid and will lap it up unquestioningly?
Well, perhaps they are because they too often seem to lap it up, saving any dissension or hard questioning for the corridors.
But as far as spin goes in the current ‘football-corruption’ current climate this one is a classic of its type – a long shot from outside the box that is currently sitting in row Z behind the goal (if it even stayed in the stadium).
Isn’t the truth more along the lines of “you have done your bit Herr Kattner – and stashed your cash and enabled plenty of others – but you have served our purpose and its time to clear off, our deal is over, we are bringing in another manipulable fool to do the next stage of our bidding. And this one has the benefit of tokenism, which you don’t have”.
With Swiss, US, and FIFA’s own ‘highly’ independent investigators crawling all over the organisation, and with their unfettered access to all the banking information and money trails, it seems incredible to believe that ‘new’ information has suddenly come to light over the finances of the organisation and that of its finance director (isn’t he the first person they would have looked into when all this started?).
It all has a similar ring to the ‘look what we just found’ over Michel Platini’s supplementary SFr2 million invoice, that UEFA then proceeded to back him for so long and so hard on (with flag waver Gianni Infantino in the vanguard). Incredibly Platini still doesn’t understand that he might have done something wrong (at least morally), and nor do large parts of UEFA. One wonders if FIFA president Infantino does.
What seems more likely in the Kattner case is that there had been a US-justice style deal done that had kept him in place despite his potential wrong-doing. But something triggered the end of that usefulness – the reasons speculated for the pulling of that trigger will shortly be the subject of another column in Insideworldfootball.
The FIFA statement on Kattner that “FIFA’s internal investigation uncovered breaches of his fiduciary responsibilities in connection with his employment contract”, seems both a little thin and a little late, taking all the other alleged financial shenanigans that might have gone on at FIFA into account. The finance director is usually across all things financial, after all. And Kattner is no fool.
Remember, justice in FIFA’s new corruption world is really about negotiation, as it is in the FBI’s football busting RICO world. A world that will see informant Jose Hawilla hand over $55 million and a long list of names to his FBI handlers, become a co-conspirator and avoid jail time. While an offshore accountancy specialist (Costas Takkas) could end up doing eight years or more for arranging and shepherding money around the US for a mate (Jeffrey Webb) but seemingly not trousering any of the cash himself.
If truth is in the eye of the beholder, justice is in the gift of the negotiator. What a truly cancerous system this is that we are told we should be celebrating and embracing as football is ‘cleaned up’.
Think back 10 days to the FIFA Congress where Kattner flashed up the now controversial ‘independence’ day resolution– ie the disbanding of the ‘independence’ of FIFA’s ‘independent’ ethics folk. In introducing the rule change for the subsequent speedily taken and unanimous vote Kattner said: “As you can see, it is fairly straightforward.”
It certainly was – FIFA’s ‘independence’ day rule rewrite killed off more than two years of ethics agonising in two mad minutes.
As the enormity of the principle of the change dawned on people – and the indignation – so came the rapid and trite PR response that “you have misunderstood what this means”. Really? How stupid we all are again, because Kattner told us it was a pretty “straightforward” proposal.
While Kattner shoveled through FIFA’s ‘independence day’ proposal, beside him sat president Infantino, his shiny orb glowing and glistening with ever increasing greatness as ‘his’ day triumphantly wore on.
Kattner had done his job with the clipped efficiency of his demeanour. Problem was he has been ‘clipping’ things for quite a long time, and now seems the convenient time to un-clip him. Timing is everything, transparency is just a word in FIFA’s world. Kattner’s dismissal smacks more of timing and convenience as up to this point FIFA and its investigators were happy to live with his ‘performance’.
One (almost) yearns for the days of Sepp Blatter when corruption was handled with a little more grace, style and equanimity. In those days the press (and subsequently most of the western world) were allowed to universally despise him and yet he still came back – sometimes almost uncomplainingly – to explain himself, joust with his critics and bang the drum for world football and the beauty of the game of football.
This new re-invented beauty we have been ordered to embrace has a very ugly face. Born of the old, moulded by the new. And the emperor has surrounded himself with sycophantic courtiers who love his new clothes, conveniently fashioned by his new ‘independent’ tailors. Are we really in a better and more honest place?
But beyond the philosophising on FIFA, what happens next with Kattner and these financial irregularities? Does criminal prosecution follow? And will this lead to the opening of a new Pandora’s box of financial malfeasance at FIFA? Or does this all go away with the departure of the finance director?
Paul Nicholson is the editor of insideworldfootball. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org