By Tony Attwood
Fifa has lodged a claim in the US courts for tens of millions of dollars for damages and compensation from the former executives who have been found guilty or accused of fraud. The reason is that they have “deeply tarnished the Fifa brand”.
I bet the court case is going to be fun. Someone is going to have to get up and say, “the Fifa brand was pure beforehand” and then show that Fifa took all due steps to ensure that no one was tarnishing their wonderful name. I wonder how many articles from blogs like this one and the handful of newspapers that also covered the tales, will need to be produced to show that everyone knew all the time that Fifa was a corrupt corporation.
I guess Fifa will then say, “but the TV companies in England and elsewhere continued to pay billions of dollars for the rights to show our games.”
And the other side will say, “yes but they still are – you haven’t lost anything.”
And then maybe we could do a poll asking people if they still think Fifa is corrupt, and maybe the various heads and ex-heads of the FA could stand up and explain why, when knowing what Fifa was, it continued to bid to hold a tournament under the auspices of one of the most corrupt organisations on the planet.
This one could run and run.
Of course at its heart is greed. $190m has been forfeited by the Fifa officials and marketing executives indicted over the past 12 months. Another $100m has been seized from the “felonious schemes” run inside Fifa.
It’s all a bit like having stuff stolen from your car or your house. If you leave a car or house unlocked with a big sign up saying “I’ve got to New York for the week” entering to steal stuff is still a crime, but your chances of getting money back in compensation or insurance is limited because you were silly.
Anyway, within its submissions Fifa has said in effect that its senior executive committee members were guilty of bribery on a grand scale. OK we all knew, but nice of them to admit it. A prime example of all this is the $10m payment from the South African FA that helped get the 2010 World Cup. Allegations say that bribes were also paid by Morocco for the 1998 and 2010 WCs.
So here we have it. Fifa is the victim. And for reasons that escape me, Fifa is now seen as a victim in the courts of USA and Switzerland.
Conmebol in South America and Concacaf in North and Central American have issued similar claims to recover money paid out in bribes. The Concacaf general secretary Chuck Blazer is listed as owing $5.4m, the former Conmebol president Nicolás Leoz as owing at least $3.25m. Rafael Salguero, from Guatemala, $5.1m.
This whole crazy idea is based on the “Fifa is not corrupt – some people within Fifa were corrupt” approach, which Fifa has been remorselessly pushing. And what do you know, the new Fifa president is pushing the same line. Infantino recently said, “The monies they pocketed belonged to global football and were meant for the development and promotion of the game. Fifa as the world governing body of football wants that money back and we are determined to get it no matter how long it takes.
“The defendants diverted this money not just from Fifa but from players, coaches and fans worldwide who benefit from the programmes that Fifa runs to develop and promote football.
“These dollars were meant to build football fields, not mansions and pools; to buy football kits, not jewellery and cars; and to fund youth player and coach development, not to underwrite lavish lifestyles for football and sports marketing executives. When Fifa recovers this money, it will be directed back to its original purpose: for the benefit and development of international football.”
Fortunately not everyone was taken in. The Telegraph said in a headline, “Welcoming Gianni Infantino as Fifa president requires ignorance, forgetfulness and hypocrisy,” which seems a good place to start. They went on, “If newly elected head of world football is against what Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini represent he should say so and deserves no slack until he does.
And he also has to explain why Blatter said, and no one contradicted him for saying it, Infantino “has all the qualities to continue my work.”
Also remember Infantino ran on a platform of expanding the World Cup to 40 teams and doubling payments from Fifa to national associations: which is where all the problems started. And he has never put any distance between himself and Blatter and Platini.
Infantino said of Blatter, “I respect very much all the work he did in terms of football development, in particular around the world.”
He’s also accepting that the seemingly corrupt placement of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 WC to Qatar, both human rights denying states, was a jolly good day’s work at the office.
But there is a tiny burst of light, for of late a small number of media outlets have openly talked about the concept that was previously more or less the preserve of Untold: closure and disbandment of Fifa.
As for the alternative, The European Clubs Association immediately repeated its opposition to Infantino’s WC expansion. They know that Fifa need what they, the clubs have, namely players. They are now getting ready to say, yes, we will do this but we want things in return – like a change to the calendar so that WC games stop interfering with League games.Infantino is also remembered (at least in the offices of Untold) as being the man who totally failed to deal with match-fixing in Greece and Turkey. He might say that“Fifa has gone through sad times, times of crisis. Those times are over,” but the number of lackeys in newspapers who are willing to print such crap without a suitable side comment is declining.
17 March 1949: Pat Rice born. He went on to make 391 league starts across a 13 season career, became temporary manager while waiting for Arsène Wenger to arrive from Japan, and then Arsène Wenger’s long term assistant.
17 March 1958: Arsenal won the London Challenge Cup beating West Ham Utd 3-1. It was one of 16 times Arsenal reached the final, and one off 11 times Arsenal won it.