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The History of FIFA Corruption

Any organization, business, and league has or will have some underlying form of fraudulence and dishonesty, but none are as lengthy or as expansive as is the history of FIFA corruption.

By Johnson BernardPublished 6 years ago 10 min read

Disregarding the players and incredible fanbase for one second; all you're left with realistically is a multi-billion dollar corporation that heads the scheduling, maintenance, televising and governing body controlling one of the most profound and highly regarded sports organizations in the history of athletic entertainment. FIFA heartbreakingly went from first being an unrivaled televised athletics business and sports program, and devolved into a melting pot of improper tactics, bribery, negative transactions, and a multiplicity of corrupt ideals spanning a long line of history, which many have tried to ignore, or have gone to great lengths in disregarding. It's rather hampering on the beauty of soccer, as a sport, as is any scandal involving an intermingling of both business and policy. Sadly, FIFA is not new to scandalous behavior.

Accurately deemed the "FIFA corruption crisis," which took place in mid-2015, first wrought into being a necessity to investigate the history of FIFA corruption. A berth of alleged corruption scandals unfolded following the resignation of FIFA president Sepp Blatter not days after the news first broke to the public. The US Department of Justice with Swiss government enforcers no sooner formalized a criminal investigation, then indicted hosts of FIFA officials and top FIFA executives in a way to uncover the truth, whereabouts, and happenstance surrounding a $10 million trail of funds leading to former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner's various bank accounts. Despite the fact that Blatter had not been named in the 47-count indictment spree led by the Justice Department, most individuals within world football and the entire industry, as a whole, believe that the former president was largely involved, additionally soliciting bribers and adding a more corrupt under-the-surface atmosphere that, in many ways, has sorely destroyed FIFA's long enduring reputation.

1994 Murder of Andrés Escobar

While FIFA itself may not have been involved in one of the most awe striking moments in soccer history, they played a large role in ignoring what this occurrence meant not only for soccer, but for the future of televised sports programs.

Entering into the 1994 World Cup with much more than high hopes and confidence, Columbia was regarded among favorites, due to their star players Carlos Valderrama and Faustino Asprilla. Considered by fans as the "Gentleman of the Field," Andrés Escobar would make a fatal error during their match against the US. Coming off a 3-1 loss with Romania, Gabriel Gomez received a death threat through fax, but coach decided, after much deliberation, not to resign. And so, Escobar's accidental self-goal, leading to a US victory, also granted him a death warrant to be payed no more than ten days after the incident in a Medellin parking lot. The heavily drug infused cartel-ruled environment of Columbia made Escobar an easy target, one for which the FIFA organization seemingly ignored and did nothing in the form of outreach, nor did they solidify a better security procedure for players and staff alike.

1996-2015 Accusations of Bribery

One of the most successful and, yet, deteriorating controversies that surrounds FIFA corruption is the unending utilization of bribes and blackmail throughout its entire executive chain. From World Cup bids, to presidential elections, bribery has made up the whole of FIFA now more so than even the sport of soccer.

As far as we know, FIFA's extensive use of bribery was first instituted amid 1996, in connection with broadcasting and rights of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) Gold Cup tournament (for which would recur in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2003). Other examples include South Africa's pick as host for the 2010 World Cup, France's 1998 tournament bid, 3 regulating FIFA officials on the 2010 World Cup staff, 2011 executive committee bribing allegations, and, among a plentitude of further examples, Sepp Blatter's election as FIFA's president.

1998 Rigged FIFA Presidential Election

One of the most emotional moments in soccer history may not have even involved a soccer ball, much less the pitch; Sepp Blatter gaining his seat as President of FIFA circa 1998 effectively bred a furthered inundation of FIFA corruption. According to the proposed accounts, Blatter illegally gained prominence within the institution through the use of bribery, then went on to further manipulate the entire organization from within, which were all brought to light via 2002-2003 allegations made by Michel Zen-Ruffinen, who was FIFA Secretary General at the time.

Whether it be in the form of game improvements, bribery, poor humor, or financial mismanagement, Blatter's rein as FIFA's fearless leader has only facilitated and maintained the employ of illegalities and controversial tactics by himself and most of his underlying executive staff. While it may still be somewhat of an alleged corruption, Blatter's "supposed" bribery for his presidential seat had paved the way for an institutional exploitation of the entire sport.

2002-2003 Financial Mismanagement

Former FIFA Secretary General Michel Zen-Ruffinen posited one of the most extensive, eye-opening and damning 30-page reports centered on the malpractices and financial mismanagement expressly utilized by Blatter and his various cronies within the organization. Zen-Ruffinen's report of misconducted management, financial improprieties, misleading account practices, and organizational manipulation had, though proven little at the time, casted a large shadow of doubt over FIFA's executive branches.

These allegations into FIFA corruption were published following the fall of FIFA's marketing partner ISL, for which nosedived the organization into a critical financial state. Blatter supposed that the ISL collapse had costed FIFA nearly $30 million, despite critics claiming it would be 10 times as much. Blatter was never charged for the allegations, and no investigation ever could prove Zen-Ruffinen's report, so it was swept under the rug of history until a more sound and formal accusation could be coalesced.

2006 Calciopoli Referee Scandal

Calciopoli, or an underground and anonymous Italian ring of corrupted sports betting, was accidentally stumbled upon through a 2004 alleged Juventus doping scandal and a circulating rumor of referee bribery. Both were immediately canned for insufficient evidences, but what officials had unknowingly uncovered was an underground sports betting operation that utilized controversial system of tactics.

When, in 2006, Turin magistrates finally decided to approach the Italian football authorities, they quickly realized that the governing bodies were themselves implicated. Luciano Moggi, Juventus General Manager and overlord of the Calciopoli, asserted an ungodly amount of dominance in soccer politics by manipulating team selections, handpicking referees for particular games, and either postponed or cancelled games on a whim. His influence even reached into the broadcasting and media sector, for which he used to benefit soccer coverage. Moggi was charged with attempted sporting fraud, but this was not only difficult to prove, it was highly an inconclusive legal action. While no beneficial ruling was ever made public and the overall scope of the Calciopoli still remains in question, one can't help but wonder if FIFA corruption may have had a hand in the entire ordeal.

2010 Missed-Goal Controversies

Among financial mismanagement accusations and bribery concerns, FIFA corruption is also known to stick its seedy claws into the likes of game improvements; this loosely means how they've adapted the underlining rules in soccer to either benefit themselves in financial capacities, or by way of bribing teams and countries through the limitation of actionable resources.

As is the case with the 2010 missed-goal controversies, which were more accurately rendered into being by way of the regulation change that ended replays from being shown to referees and fans. Instead of integrating, as many fans have lamented for years over, a form of goal-line technology for accurate and definitive proof of scores, FIFA decided instead to just take replays out of the game entirely. This led to a myriad of officiating errors and debates concerning the implementation of video technology, most of which was ignored until 2012, when an official missed a goal by Ukraine in their match against England.

2014 Labor Disputes

For about 20 euro, or 190 rand, South African laborers constructed the 2014 World Cup facility making little to nothing, eventually leading to strikes and even some deaths in connection with the project. FIFA, while still impressing upon countries the importance of the event, also seems to love taking itself out of the equation when dealing with the consequences of human rights, labor procedures, and construction materials.

Even this year's facility in Russia has come under fire with claims of both Russia and FIFA exploiting workers. Sparking investigation, a 34-page report called the "Red Card," identifies FIFA as the sole bearer to blame in connection with unpaid, delayed wages, on top of allowing unprotected laborers to work in extreme weather conditions (-25 degrees Celsius in some cases) and disregarding legally binding work contracts for 6 World Cup facility construction sites. It's a real issue, one that the organization must amend before FIFA corruption becomes any more emboldened than it already is.

2015 FIFA Corruption Crisis

Here's a lengthy explanation of the FIFA corruption crisis, which seemed to literally turn the entirety of World Soccer on its head. It effectively rendered nearly every important official FIFA executive role obsolete and proved just how vulnerable these athletic events (and their background organizations) truly are when over billions of dollars are being tossed to and fro like child's play.

Jeffery Webb, Jack Warner, Jose Maria Marin, Eduardo Li, and more were all arrested in connection with the various scandals pockmarking a 24 year long history of FIFA corruption, thus far known. Along with arrests, officials also jumpstarted two additional investigations into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup ceremonies. Not only was it among the biggest soccer scandals of all time, it also made sour the entire society of international soccer.

Questionable Politics of the Ballon d’Or Award

This one's a little tricky and necessarily hard to prove. Since the adoption of the Ballon d'Or in 2010, a soccer player with avid performances and an underlying perfection of skill in both national and league play is awarded the annually granted title. So far (and, remember, it was introduced in 2010) only two players have been named: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Critics of the award would, far into the future of FIFA corruption, call into question the political nature of the Ballon d’Or.

For some, the annual award is nothing but a foundational error in FIFA's maintenance of fanbase opinion. In other words, judged by the fact that only two players have been granted it over the previous eight years of its existence, the Ballon d’Or is nothing but a popularity contest with an even more corrupted selection process. Back in November 2014, for instance, Ronaldo had scored a hat trick against Sweden for a playoff victory like no other. FIFA responded by pushing the Ballon d’Or voting deadline from the 15th to the 29th, expressing their interest in shifting public opinions and manipulation of resources for the benefit of third-party sponsorships and global social media icons, like those of Messi (Adidas) and Ronaldo (Nike).

Qatar 2022 World Cup

On top of various labor disputes and bribery concerns surrounding the 2022 World Cup, Qatar's pick as host of the tournament, in of itself, was largely seen as a form of manipulation and bribery utilized through FIFA corruption. For starters, FIFA has already moved scheduling around in the discovery of Qatar's 122 degree high Summer temperatures.

Though FIFA's run with labor disputes had entrenched them with human rights debates for many years, Qatar is now struggling with labor issues and safety. In 2014, around 15 Nepalese would die in the construction of their World Cup facilities. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, over 4,000 Nepalese laborers will die before the facility is even completed by 2022, having coined its connotation as the "blood-stained World Cup." FIFA's reluctance to reexamine their construction procedures is, among many things, a primary concern for the future of the soccer organization.


About the Creator

Johnson Bernard

Father of four, married for twenty years, and yet I still have the energy to type this up at 1 am as little Timmy begins to wail from upstairs. I'm a fixer-upper and a family man.

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