Commentary: Nobody Does Corruption Like FIFA

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Days before the election of a new FIFA President, high-ranking executives in Sepp Blatter's organization have been arrested. (Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
Days before the election of a new FIFA President, high-ranking executives in Sepp Blatter's organization have been arrested. (Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)

Early Wednesday morning, seven high-ranking executives in FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, were arrested. They’d been residing in a five star hotel in Zurich, where, by all accounts, they’d been preparing to elect Sepp Blatter to a fifth term as FIFA’s President.

The NBA had its referee scandal back in 2007.

Some of Major League Baseball’s most accomplished stars have lied to Congress about their use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Every sport has its sleazy side.

But nobody does corruption like FIFA, and Wednesday’s arrests may be the beginning of a process that will bring that fact to the attention of the general public in the U.S., where soccer has been a second-tier sport and FIFA’s mischief and felonies have received relatively scant attention.

The seven arrests and the additional indictments made public on Wednesday resulted from allegations of bribery, kickbacks and illegal arrangements regarding the scheduling and marketing of major soccer tournaments.

There’s every chance that the indictments to come — and the U.S. Justice Department has promised there will be more — will involve the process by which the World Cup Tournaments were awarded to Russia and to Qatar.

For decades, FIFA has dodged all manner of corruption charges. The association buried a report following an investigation FIFA itself had commissioned in 2012, releasing to the public only a summary of the document, which its author, U.S. attorney Michael Garcia, characterized as “incorrect, incomplete and erroneous.”

But in 2013, former FIFA executive Chuck Blazer secretly pleaded guilty in federal court to money laundering and racketeering, among other things. His revelations helped the U.S. Justice Department solidify their cases against the only seven guys walking out of a five star hotel in Zurich under bedsheets on Wednesday morning. It seems likely that at least some of those seven might choose to seek plea bargains of their own, which is how rumors get built into court cases that result in more resignations, more guilty pleas and more convictions.

Despite the arrests and the airing of charges serious enough to make even wealthy potentates tremble, Sepp Blatter’s people maintained this week that Mr. Blatter had no intention of stepping down from his post as the head of the greed-ridden, international influence-peddling and favor-exchanging bizarre that dabbles in soccer. The election that is expected to result in his fifth term as head of this particular crime family will proceed as scheduled on Friday, albeit with fewer voters than anticipated.

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Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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