by Tony Attwood
I received a note at the end of last week pointing out that Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, who have been under investigation by Swiss authorities for some time, are now suddenly facing a more serious charge of fraud. This comes after Swiss federal prosecutors intensified a five-year investigation into the pair’s past dealings at Fifa this week.
The open criminal proceedings had been focused on suspected mismanagement and misappropriation, plus an act of forgery by Platini, linked to Fifa paying Platini $2 million with Blatter’s approval in 2011.
Naturally I wanted to check the story so I typed into Google “platini and blatter prosecuted for fraud”. Tens of thousands of references came up from all around the world – except from within the UK. OK, I didn’t plough through all 24,000 articles on the subject that Google found, but every one I saw in a quick flip through was from overseas news services, with many of them taking their lead from the highly authoritative Associated Press.
And yet on 2 December Athletic News ran a Blatter story which went through all sorts of details of his work without a single solitary word about the fact that the Swiss had just opened criminal proceedings which are focused on suspected mismanagement and misappropriation.
It is instead a gentle reflection in which the ex president of Fifa says things like “you cannot change history. Decisions were taken. That’s the reality. You can regret everything, but you can’t change it. You can’t make rehearsals to see what might happen. That’s why I have to accept it, even with all the regrets I have.”
Not a very exciting quote, and a mention of his current court case, nor the long running cases involving Infantino and the head of the Swiss legal system. Not a single word.
Now if you are a regular reader of Untold you will know that I have written numerous pieces criticising the UK media for failing to cover the multiple legal cases running in Switzerland against Fifa and its officials (and the head of the Swiss judicial system).
My prime point has been that the UK media ignores the cases. But here we have a clear case of deflection – of covering something completely different to do with Blatter in order to avoid any thought that he has just this moment been dropped in it once again.
And that makes me wonder, what the **** is going on?
There is an admission that “A BBC Panorama documentary had turned a fierce spotlight on executive committee members such as Jack Warner (vice-president and president of CONCACAF, the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football), Ricardo Teixeira (Brazil) and Julio Grondona (Argentina).”
OK that was the past. But what about now? Surely the Athletic knows about the current court cases which the rest of the world is watching open mouthed? I mean they are after all a weekly news magazine aren’t they?
But they continue, “One member of the England 2018 delegation recalls seeing Prince William and David Beckham sharing bewildered looks…”
And later, “Forty-four years had passed since the World Cup was staged on English soil…”
Yes they admit that Blatter “was one of numerous FIFA executive committee members who were banned from football as a result of the various inquiries that followed. He and Michel Platini, the former UEFA president and one of the great footballers of his generation, were among those found guilty of ethics code violations. Several others have faced criminal charges.”
Errr, yes, and at this moment who is in the dock? Oh we are not told. Instead it is suggested that “In most respects, football has moved on.”
No, what has happened is that the Swiss legal system has caught up and is running case after case after case. We are told “Russia made a great success of hosting the 2018 World Cup. Despite numerous objections, ranging from human-rights concerns to the climate, the 2022 tournament will go ahead in Qatar — in winter, to avoid the oppressive summer heat.”
And all this misses the point. Apart from the fact that the Swiss are upping their game in tearing into Fifa at this very moment, there is also the growing awareness that the stadia for the 2022 world cup have been built with slave labour. Anything on that? Oh, no.
OK Athletic News don’t have to cover the moral issue about the stadium building if they don’t want, but really, not to mention that Blatter joins Infantino and the head of the Swiss judiciary in court at this moment…. As each week passes this looks more and more like someone somewhere is pulling the strings when it comes to what the British media should and should not cover.
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