For many football fans the arrest of FIFA officials in Zurich yesterday was the best news they had received for a very long time. Yet just like organised crime it appears that the “Godfather” of football, the man at the top Sepp Blatter has been clever enough to distance himself from the alleged corruptive activities carried out by these arrested individuals.
Many in Australia waited patiently yesterday to hear what the FFA’s position was on the arrests and the impact they will have on the FIFA Congress and the voting in of a new President on Friday. No statement was made yesterday, however the FFA sent out a Press release this morning which states, “‘The FFA delegation led by CEO David Gallop arrived in Zurich late Wednesday night (Australian time) ahead of the 2015 FIFA Congress. FFA Chairman Frank Lowy is expected to arrive in Zurich tonight (Australian time). “The Australian delegation will review the developments involving Swiss and US law enforcement authorities over the conduct of FIFA officials. FFA expects to issue a further statement tonight.'”
Surely one would have expected the Board to have hooked up by phone or Skype and to have confirmed where they stood on the current situation?
When that statement does come it is crucial that the FFA advise its so called “family” who they will be voting for in the election if as expected it does take place. It is hoped by many that the FFA stand up and back the move that the Presidential vote should be delayed for at least six months until there is more clarity on the reasons for the arrests of members of the FIFA Executive Committee.
In fact there is an opportunity for those football federations who claim to be “clean” to invite the people behind New FIFA Now into the fold. This is a body of people sick to death of the corrupt practices in FIFA and who are calling for new constitutions and Statutes to be put in place when it comes to running the game, to ensure that FIFA does indeed stand for ‘fair play’ and operate for the ‘good of the game.’
This new organisation’s motives and suggestions are noble and right, yet so too were FIFA’s before Sepp Blatter’s successor Joao Havelange used the power of the African and Asian votes – something Blatter still uses to stay in power – to upset the balance of power and remove the last European president of FIFA Sir Stanley Rous in 1974.
If these new statutes and constitutions are to work the game needs to have a body to police them and ensure that all Federations adhere to them. Not surprisingly this is not the case at the current time, and it may surprise many that the FFA are frequently in breach of FIFA’s current regulations and statutes.
One such rule from FIFA reads: “Persons bound by this Code shall be forbidden from taking part in, either directly or indirectly, or otherwise being associated with, betting, gambling, lotteries and similar events or transactions connected with football matches.
They are forbidden from having stakes, either actively or passively, in companies, concerns, organisations, etc. that promote, broker, arrange or conduct such events or transactions.”
Yet the FFA who in April this year sanctioned three registered participants in Western Australia “under the National Code of Conduct after wagering on a PS4 National Premier Leagues match in WA,” carries betting sponsorship messages on its own website.
If FIFA’s rules and regulations were being adhered to the FFA would not allow football betting advertising on their website. Also they would not organise, allow, or promote tipping competitions and fantasy leagues that require the results of actual football matches under their jurisdiction to be on their website. They certainly should not have “betting partners.”
The sad thing is that on a much smaller scale than FIFA, the Australian football scene is far from squeaky clean. It has been interesting to listen to some of the “experts” being contacted to comment on the current FIFA arrests, and several of them have also been linked to dubious events or acted inappropriately in relation to football.
Their offences are minor compared to the accusations made against those arrested which allude to two decades of shadowy dealing and $150 million being taken in bribes.
The authorities have described international football in terms normally reserved for the famed Mafia families or drug cartels, and the charges being laid under racketeering laws usually apply only to such major criminal organizations. However as with those organisations there is a pyramid, and many at the top started at the bottom, as a runner collecting money or distributing illegal items.
Hopefully these arrests are in fact the tip of the iceberg and that we see lesser offenders, but offenders just the same, who have stolen from the game or who are guilty of corrupt practices arrested in their own countries. If this happens then the New FIFA Now people have a chance of making the sweeping changes that the game desperately needs.
For 40 years those at the top of FIFA have taken more and more from the game. They have also taken from countries that have hosted their biggest money-making event, the World Cup. FIFA ensuring that it pays no taxes in the host nation. Both South Africa and Brazil will tell you how much hosting the World Cup cost them, yet on both occasions FIFA made massive profits. In Brazil it was rumoured to be close to USD$2billion.
Another way to stop the corruption is for governments to stand firm and advise the governing body of the world’s most popular game that they must pay taxes in that country.
This could be the catalyst for change, but it will need fans and players the world over to insist that change happens and that can start by putting pressure on the national Federation and demanding more transparency and them declaring how they will vote in elections such as the one said to be still going ahead on Friday.