If anybody thought FIFA had changed since 2015, they need to get their heads checked.
The extra-territorial US intervention, aided and abetted by a since shamefully removed and very questionable Swiss Attorney General, has had zero effect on today’s football’s administrators, other than dragging a sanctimonious smokescreen over the felonious US-led and LatAm/Caribbean conduct.
The entire “scandal” was never unknown: everybody in football’s higher echelons knew full well that illegal and criminal conduct by football’s regional and global leaders was the norm. Many journalists had written the story for decades, highlighting the innumerable dirty deals more seriously. Ever since the ISL/ISMM fiasco, the Renford, Nunca, Sunbow, Taora, Gilmark and many other dirty offshore deals of corrupt Brazilians and US individuals, the informed world of football knew full well that the fastest way to get rich quick was to get involved with football’s commercial business (funny enough, the very same ‘special prosecutor’ who eventually had to drop the ISL matters, is back at it again, this time looking into some past payment of very exposed individuals).
Now it’s neither here nor there what Wikipedia says, but it is interesting to see ‘the cleanest of the clean’ join a firm that seems to have had “some issues”.
But what IS here and pretty much everywhere, is that the former serially suspected and officially charged former FIFA GenSec (until the trial blew up for statutory reasons thanks to that famous Swiss AG who is no more..), and who got a serious parachute worth CHF 8 million after he was ousted, delivered by a truly crooked operator from Argentina (since passed away), who was the ExCo Member who led the finance oversight at the time and spoke zero German (but legally signed the US$8 million- deal in German), so when that banking genius changed FIFA’s accounting structure from Swiss Francs to US Dollars, the US suddenly had an interest under their extraterritorial jurisdiction legislation and soon exercised their “right”.
The man had been warned in writing and verbally not to account for FIFA’s books in USD – but he knew better. The US owe him. Bigly.
If a guy whose only earthly possession was a bicycle for three decades, a man who lived in a shack, barely able to feed his flock, suddenly finds himself elected to office where – with some “luck” – he finds himself raking in the millions (literally), then others will want to get some of that luck too, won’t they?
And if another guy walks through life as an association operative at the top of the chain, with eyes firmly closed, jaws locked, ears plugged while he always proclaims that “I had no idea this was happening”, then one can assume that his eyesight, his hearing and his inability to speak [up] are by choice, and not by accident.
FIFA’s past has at least one mitigating circumstance in its favour: when the corruption-shit hit the proverbial Swiss-operated fan in the eighties and the nineties, the laws were different, and kick-backs were officially allowed and tax-deductible.
There were no bribery or corruption laws.
Believe it or not, and if you don’t, look it up. In little Switzerland, such payments were declared as “cost of sales” and accepted by the tax authorities in Zug and Zurich. So all good then, that an international bank on Zurich’s “Central” (that’s the actual name of the square near the main station) was the chosen deposit-centre for US$ 11 million for two Brazilian football Grandes, who had cosy links with ISL/ISMM and of course FIFA – ISL being the company that used to market FIFA’s broadcasting and other rights. And the one that paid the kick-backs, duly declared as ‘cost of sales’…
And if as nothing had happened (because nothing really did, did it?), a decade later some new top dog sits at the main table, one who wants to reorganise yet again what he thinks is now his fiefdom. One who wants to create a new-style ISL/ISSM-type entity (a bit like the new-style sashimi at Nobu’s: the same thing with a different twist) that he would run and control, and which would – guess what – exclusively own and market FIFA’s broadcasting and other rights. Plus ça change…
Thing is, the laws have changed, scrutiny is a little bit tighter, governance was invented and compliance is suddenly a thing.
But a guy who signed broadcasting deals with some Mickey-Mouse offshore company that promptly sold the same rights to people since charged and convicted in the US, a guy like that knows the tricks of the trade, knows how to hide what needs to be hidden, knows how to ingratiate himself to those who ride bicycles but want a seat in his private jet. Simple, really: share your wealth, just a little bit, with those who live in a shack, and you are King of the Universe. Until the universe you created collapses, which it will. Why? Simply because there are several other parts to this equation:
The thing called CNB
It starts with corruption (C), nepotism (N) and bribes (B). The English call it ‘bungs’ (because the English always call things they are great at by a special name they created). Bungs, how cool is that.
And today’s FIFA is no different from the pre-2015 FIFA.
Only the methods have changed, as have the laws. The cost-of-sales thing is no more. Kick-backs are a no-no (?!). Which is all fine and dandy because all that has changed is the criminal energy and the criminal creativity, with which stuff happens.
Just look at the election of the New Boy at the top. After he was elected in a second ballot with 115 to 88 votes in February of 2016, everybody who was anybody in football and its politics of machination knew full well that Africa is where his victory came from. And a handful of South American Members, of course the US and a few Caribbean renegades. The new guy’s first words were these: “We will restore the respect people have in FIFA and everybody will applaud us, and they will applaud all of you for what you do.” What a sad joke in hindsight. This was 5 years ago, folks.
The BBC’s then chairman, Greg Dyke, who was a regular at the former FIFA President’s Roundtables in London, applauding the old man, said this in 2016: “I think he will find a good chief executive – because that’s the crucial thing here, finding a good chief executive to run things.”
We all know how that went down next: in breach of any and all regulations, the New Guy presented a puppet on his string, as soon as he had the opportunity. True, she was a woman (box ticked), true, she is Black (box double ticked), and most importantly, she’s from Mother Afrikaah (triple box ticked).
The unfortunate reality – besides the fact that she couldn’t recognise a football from an elbow – is that she was introduced into the new man’s closest fold by a since seriously disgraced and kicked out of office (bungs, you guessed it) football administrator. A mishap of sorts.
Since then, she has displayed every single qualification that a UN operator is taught: never contradict power, bend your back and kick what is below. Some call it “management by bicycle” – at least in Switzerland, where servile manners are a way of life, if you want a life.
One could muse about how the New Man’s victory came about in Africa but that will be a topic elsewhere, in another forum, not today. But his efforts (inducements? How dare you!) paid off splendidly: Africa’s Confederation, the CAF, is now a fully-owned, fully controlled, toothless and servile subsidiary of FIFA, run by a man (of the New Man’s choosing) whose wealth allows him to remain unaccountable to virtually anything and everything. Cool.
But way not enough.
The African exercise was but a tasteless hors d’oeuvre. What was lacking is the desert sand that added to FIFA’s new gearbox (“We will restore the respect people have in FIFA and everybody will applaud us, and they will applaud all of you for what you do.” – you get my drift). Introduce the machinations of a Kingdom that is desperate for recognition (as if butchering a journalist was not enough recognition already) and actively employs ‘soft power’ – i.e. football – to get admitted to the world’s casino table where fortunes are made, reputations create, status symbols handed out and people murdered, always in the interest of the greater good.
A bit like the old FIFA, and the new (except for the murdering part). Next, the sand castlers joined forces with Africa’s hero(es), only to use the good services an Asian bank/fund to rejig what used to be world football’s governing body.
The first round of the attempted coup went straight into the trousers and soiled them. The take-over didn’t happen, the new wet-dreamt structure where the Desert King (via a lovely fund) would deliver $25 billion and take apart FIFA – by dividing it into commerce and sport and making the New Man the boss of, you guessed it, commerce – so round two was launched. But that too, was a real Royal fuck-up and the European Super League, designed to destroy UEFA’s top competition and cut off its financial balls, was a dismal failure (and if you though that it was fan-power that did it, you need to consider a reality-check). The New Man had quietly promised the renegades that his operation was going to support the new league, until it didn’t, because it couldn’t. Now, for anybody at FIFA to claim that this was not so, would be as idiotic as any other lie that comes from those quarters: too many newly re-anointed Club owners and Club chairs confirmed the New Man’s direct involvement and his promises. Lying is not an option. For now.
So, what next? With his overarching and ongoing efforts to dismantle what he used to head as its CEO: UEFA (while battering the “old” FIFA vociferously), he had to come up with yet another asinine idea (oh, is he good at that), as idiotic as it is blaringly transparent: generate more, much more, cash for himself and his buddies (who seem to be financing virtually anything to get a seat at the top table).
Introducing the “new” idea: a World Cup every other year.
Fair enough and about as new as yesterday’s papers. His predecessor played with the thought openly and covertly for years. He even propagated it in some English media. It was never going to happen but he tried.
Now the New Man, with ammunition from Africa, the Desert King and a few world football powers from Asia (such as Maldives, Nepal and more), has devised a wicked new plan: use some spent footballers, a spent (and sadly failed) coach and some other spent morons and engage with the world media to relaunch what was a still-birth in the past. Not once, but several times. And he’ll convince them, no doubt. Gullible, is the word.
Except this time, the New Man can actually win this.
Why? Because nothing has changed (see the entire copy above).
FIFA continues to be unviable, a spent force, the plaything of a few who claim to be doing every single thing they do for the advancement of the many (who will never advance, by design).
Africa already staunchly by his side (he made sure over the past few years that this would be the case), droplets of Asia coming forward and what used to be the Caribbean Football Union, CFU, ready for the plucking (if the monetary promises are made, just like during his first election), he’s got a good chance of winning this round and screwing the very body that he used to help run: UEFA – very much against FIFA at the time.
In a slight variation of a Republican mantra, here’s this: At a Congress, it is the votes, stupid.
With Africa’s 54 votes and the 30+ votes from the CFU, the 10 votes from insatiable CONMEBOL and 20+ (if not more) votes from Asia’s AFC (remember the West Asia votes are focused around the Middle East where those fancy Kingdoms lie), he won’t even need the Central European votes to win this reconstruction of world football. 211 Members of FIFA means that a simple majority is 106 (not even counting those few who cannot vote). The way things stand, the New Man, supported by his Sand Castles and Mama Afrikaah and a few dissenters in Asia will win this one. Throw in the Caribbean for good measure and victory is guaranteed.
And then what?
YOU tell ME.
James Dostoyevsky was a Washington based author until the end of 2018, where he reported on sports politics and socio-cultural topics. He returned to Europe in 2019 and continues to follow football politics – presently with an emphasis on the Middle East, Europe and Africa.