By Tony Attwood
As we noted yesterday, the USA is about to go onto the attack against Fifa (see USA is about to attack Fifa in the biggest assault on bribery in football ever)
But in doing this it is also going on the attack against Qatar and its winning of the right to hold the World Cup in two years time. And it does so against a background of Fifa’s “zero tolerance” policy on corruption, plus an attitude of “it’s too late to do anything about it” in at least the English media, if nowhere else.
An examination of that Fifa policy and the USA’s evidence can lead only to one conclusion, that Qatar illicitly bought the World Cup and that Infantino knew this. Of course, ultimately that will be for the courts to decide – and the court case against Infantino looks like one that could run for several years. Plus we must always say, Mr Infantino is innocent until proven otherwise.
But such accusations should not come as a shock. It is not just Untold that has been running such stories about Fifa corruption since we first alerted readers to the fact that the Swiss had changed their laws to allow American officials onto Swiss territory in order to arrest corrupt sporting officials (which in essence meant Fifa officials) in 2015.
And it is interesting to see the current reaction to the story in the British media which of course ignored that early sign of a changing world. The media’s view in Britain is that the world cup will continue in 2022 as planned. Nothing to see, move on.
This maybe right – with Fifa you never know. But it is also interesting to note that the indictment also accuses Russia of paying bribes for votes in the 2018 bid with money paid to Jack Warner. The Americans do not give up.
Already some of the accused have admitted that there were bribes on offer in 2016 including Rafael Salguero who represented Guatemala. He admitted he was offered a bribe but suggests he never took it. He is still fighting extradition from his home island of Trinidad.
Now most of the British media have had mention of this story, but even where they have gone any further they have suggested that nothing will come of it, noting that those who have died can’t be charged, some like Salguero can’t be got at, and anyway there is a world cup to be played so why don’t we have a drink and enjoy it.
But the first allegations against Fifa and Qatar were made more than three years ago, and the fact that a country and international organisation are both good at procrastination is really not a very good excuse for doing nothing now.
Yet still, the argument from the print media is, there is nothing here to stop the world cup going ahead. A sort of “you could hardly stop it so late in the day after poor Qatar has spent all this money” attitude.
The Guardian, for example, says, “For more than nine years since, Qatar has spent billions building seven stadiums, reconfiguring another and constructing vast infrastructure to host the World Cup. Exceptionally solid, proven reasons would be needed, in good time, if the tournament were to be moved, and clearly the supreme committee denies any suggestion that it should.”
But even leaving aside the reasons, that ignores the American proposal that American firms should not be allowed to sponsor the world cup. And although Fifa will always wriggle itself out of any moral stance, it is going to be hit by the fact that it has a very publically stated “zero tolerance” on corruption.
Yet even without the American economic boycott of the Qatar games, if there were a real zero-tolerance policy in Fifa the World Cup in Qatar would have to be withdrawn, no matter how late in the day, over their treatment of migrant workers. Not doing so is a bit like finding a man guilty of murder and then saying he would not be imprisoned because he’s getting married in six months time and has already booked the honeymoon.
Fifa could move the world cup – and this is a key point – virtually every major country in Europe would fancy some of the action, given the amount of money being lost to football because of the coronavirus.
The fact that America is turning up the heat now shows that they are themselves no longer willing to wait for Fifa to undertake more of its fanciful internal reviews, and they see American interests being harmed (in that had Qatar not won the vote, the USA would have done).
The sponsors also have a problem, even if there is no order from the US authorities for American firms not to participate in the World Cup. If the suspicion that the bidding process was fixed is not examined, then there will be a chance for the word to spread that the refereeing is also fixed.
Now bad refereeing decisions in World Cup games is normally overcome in England by the panel of experts in the studio saying that it is silly of Fifa to employ referees from smaller nations who will not have had the experience of handling full-time professional players who know every trick in the trade. Not English players of course, but some of these foreigners who will stop at nothing to get a win.
But the reality is that given the scale of corruption now being alleged in the USA, there is every chance that the referees will be bribed as well, quite probably with Fifa turning a blind eye because of yet more payments.
And for the companies aligning themselves with the world cup, there is also a problem. Even if corruption is not proven by the time the tournament starts, how can they distance themselves from the allegations?
The problem we have in England is that the media absolutely will not entertain the idea that there is anything wrong in football. From incidents such as Sport England removing funds from the FA over its failure to spend money given for ground improvement on community sites in a proper way, through to the FA’s failure to account for what it has done with money received in relation to the Community Shield games. From questions raised about why specific referees get to control matches of certain teams over and over again, to why referees cannot be interviewed after games, as they are in some other countries.
And that is before we even think about how the child abuse situation was allowed to develop and become so deeply engrained in football across the years.
It is not that these events, and so many more like them, prove that there is something wrong with the PGMO who control referees, or with the FA that takes taxpayers’ money to control football in England, but rather that this multiplicity of events leads to a suspicion that something is wrong. A suspicion that could easily be ended by everyone opening up and revealing what is going on.
So it always is with Fifa. There is always suspicion, and also a lot of evidence, that things are not right, and the forthcoming court cases may well shed more light on the issues.
But although the English media’s attitude of there being nothing to see here, and even if there were, it is too late to do anything about it, is to be anticipated, it is still desperately sad.
If England, and other countries, continue in this way, it really is hard to see how corruption and incompetence is going to be removed from football at any level.
- The home and away scandal: ignorance, or cover up?
- The reason why Liverpool and Man C are ahead of Arsenal.
- How which referee a club gets has a major impact on the result of each game
- The statistical evidence that shows PGMO are biased against Arsenal
- How European football has taken up the fight against clubs breaking FFP