By Tony Attwood
If you are a regular reader of my ramblings you will know of my constant criticism of the English media that it ignores issues relating to Fifa. So when on 27 May 2015 seven Fifa officials were arrested at the Hotel Baur au Lac, Zürich, the English media were shocked. If they had read Untold in the months before they would have seen that the event was about to happen. We knew because we spotted the law change in Switzerland that allowed the arrests to take place.
When Gianni Infantino took control of Fifa there was a moode in England suggesting that everything would change, and yet, as I want to show in this little piece, the media should never have been relieved. For not only is he now under suspicion of most serious crimes (although we also spotted him possibly doing something naughty with his expense account) but that this was likely to happen could have been foreseen by one tiny bit of research from the media. But research, or indeed work, is not what football journalists like.
This is incidentally probably why we there is no investigation into PGMO, but we’ll leave that for another day.
But back to Fifa. Totally unnoticed by the UK media, (at least until we had written about the evolving situation a couple of times) Michael Lauder, the Federal Prosecutor was charged with having illegal private meetings with Infantino ahead of the pending court cases.
And there is another person involved, the public prosecutor of the Valais district Rinaldo Arnold, a personal friend of Infantino. He has been mentioned as the facilitator of one or more meetings between Lauber and Infantino and in so facilitating he might well have broken Swiss law.
Indeed Arnold seems to have been talking to Lauber for about five years, starting from the time when Infantino was Uefa general secretary. The suggestion is that Infantino needed to know what complaints and allegations were going to be made against him as he got ready to campaign to take over from Sepp Blatter.
Now this is not just a set of Swiss people talking to each other, and preparing themselves for any nasty rumours the media might come up with, so they can deny them. No, Arnold’s involvement raises bigger problems. If a special prosecutor is installed to sort out the allegations surrounding Infantino it is generally accepted that the FIFA Ethics Committee would have to suspend Infantino. If suspended Infantino would be far less able to cover his tracks, if he had a mind to do so. (I make no allegation to this effect of course).
OK, so that is the story that for whatever reason the English media is by and large hiding from its audiences. But there is more and it is rather shocking. Something about Infantino, Blatter, Lauber and indeed Arnold. Something which given the track record of our media they are not going to see let alone understand, unless Untold Arsenal points them in the right direction.
First they are all Swiss. OK, nothing to write home about. But there is more. Switzerland is divided into cantons – the nearest English equivalent is a county. And Blatter was born in the canton of Valais. Infantino was born in the canton of Valais. Lauber was born in the canton of Valais. Oh yes and Michel Zen-Ruffinen who served as the general secretary of FIFA, from 1998 to 2002 was born in the canton of Valais.
The population of Valais is about one third of a million. So this is a bit like having all the key players running the whole of Fifa across the entire world, coming from Northumberland. Or Haringey (home of Tottenham Hotspur).
Now it is of course possible that this is coincidence. The very, very best administrators in the whole of the world of football were all born in one Swiss canton. Just like they could all come from Haringey.
But when people do investigations, be they the police, or historians, or writers about football, what they do (or should do if they were doing their jobs properly) is pause occasionally and ask the question:
Is this likely?
Now of course coincidences do happen. My father’s first grandchild was born on his birthday. It’s a coincidence. I know that is true because I had some involvement in the situation and was there at the birth.
But when coincidences happen in relation to dubious and dodgy goings-on, and there are multiple coincidences rather than one, then we start to think, maybe there is a deeper story.
Of course just because Blatter, Infantino, Lauber, and Zen-Ruffinen all come from the same small part of the same small country, that does not mean that they have conspired with each other to hide the evidence of each other’s bad practices – and let’s be clear, only one of the four has been charged and banned from football.
Yet as the case grows, as we find more and more about this little clique being exposed, as this goes on and on and on, surely it is relevant to ask, has something odd been happening to Fifa over all these years?
And from there ask, why have all the countries that have so willingly subscribed to Fifa, poured money into Fifa, allowed Fifa to run the elections to choose where the World Cup is being played, allowed Fifa to sell the TV rights for world cup matches around the world, and been involved in so many scandals?
Because to keep doing this day after day, year after year, without investigating any possible case of corruption smacks of a supreme case of negligence by everyone interested, from the media to governmental anti-corruption bodies.
And why am I worked up about that? Because I am a taxpayer in the UK, and some of the tax I pay each year goes to bail out the FA from its debts. And the FA has debts because it does things like recognise Fifa as a fit and proper organisation to run football internationally and put in bids to run the world cup (a bid which last time got two votes (Australia and England).
Whereas, as the revelations grow, day by day, week by week, month by month it becomes more and more clear that Fifa has been and is being running by a bunch of mates from the same little area of the same small country. And yes of course it is possible that by pure chance that little area has produced the best football administrators there have ever been – but I hope you will forgive me if I say I don’t believe it.
And if you say that given the English media has not uncovered this strange tale about where the four guys were all brought up, but Untold (thanks very much to its sources, whose identities of course I am not going to reveal here) has, it must all be untrue, because if it were true, the English media would be all over it, of course you can believe that.
But I don’t. I think the football media in England is profoundly lazy. So lazy they can’t be arsed to find out if there is corruption running through Fifa from top to bottom, and so lazy they don’t notice there is enough evidence for the FA at least to suspend all payments to Fifa and all activity with Fifa, and instead join forces with other countries to have a full scale investigation into what the hell is going on.
Because failure to do that makes the FA as culpable as Fifa.
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