FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Grand FIFA Cover-Up

“It [the Garcia report] must be made public. That is the only way FIFA can deal with the complete loss of credibility.”

Reinhard Rauball, President of the German Football League, Nov 16, 2014

It seemed cheeky of them, but it could not have been any other way. Football’s governing body, FIFA, is a creature that is beyond reform. Solidly entrenched, heavily overgrown, and incapable of brooking an approach that might refresh its functions for the broader goals of football, it resists change with fundamentalist commitment. Every effort that has been made thus far has fallen.

The suspected improprieties associated with the award of the hosting rights for the 2018 games to Russia, and the 2022 games to Qatar were dismissed by FIFA. There was simply no need to revisit the bidding process, given that any irregularities were “minor” to warrant a dramatic reopening. FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert had given the organization, and the countries accused of corruption, a stunningly good bill of health. Instead, Eckert advised President Sepp Blatter to go on the offensive, citing “his duty” to lodge a complaint in the Swiss courts. (Blatter’s record on suing, as opposed to his threats to sue, are poor.)

Eckert did find irregularities, not with the Qatar and Russian bids, but with the English bid for 2018 and the Australian bid for 2022. While England did cooperate with Michael Garcia’s ethics investigation, the team was ticked off for trying to woo Concacaf president Jack Warner with a sumptuous £35,000 dinner, and offering help with finding part time work for someone on his behalf (The Guardian, Nov 14).

In an act of fabulous casuistry, the judge did not see any connections with the bid and Qatar’s funding for global football development, sponsorship of the African Football Congress in Angola in 2010, and questionable payments to Argentina when playing Brazil in a friendly in Doha in 2010. Former Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam did make “several improper payments” to the higher-ups of African football, and forked out $1.2m to stop former FIFA executive member Jack Warner from taking the stand against him. But again, no evident connection existed between the payments and the actual bidding process.

In what must be the black comedy that inheres in that particularly body, Blatter claims ignorance of the contents of the original Garcia report, authored by FIFA’s much sidelined ethics committee. Garcia himself has been outmanoeuvred, suggesting that his findings have been misrepresented. Eckert’s 42-page summing up of the unreleased 430-page report was evidently less summing than distorting measures of substraction. A cleaning job became a covering one.

It also seems that an aggressive posture is being taken against whistleblowers, evidenced by the dismissive remarks in Eckert’s summary over such individuals as Bonita Mersiades, head of communications for Australia’s 2022 bid. The summary by Eckert, according to Mersiades, says that FIFA “got their decisions right in respect to Qatar and Russia, and there’s even a sentence and a reference in there that Sepp Blatter ran a wonderful process. It’s almost like high comedy” (The Guardian, Nov 16).

The low comedy side of it came with the fears expressed by the other whistleblower, Phaedra Al-Majid, who claims she will “look over my shoulder for the rest of my life” in connection with allegations of corruption over Qatar’s bid. Under pressure from Qatari officials, she retracted allegations in 2011 that votes were being bought. She raised the issue again with Garcia, and also with the FBI, who visited her in September 2011.[1]

Blatter is also doing his best to use the law as a pretext for preventing any action on the issue of the bids. He intends to bury the Garcia findings in the archive of recommendations that will never see the light of day. “If FIFA were to publish the report, we would be violating our own association law as well as state law.”[2] Consent would need to be sought from all individuals detailed in the findings. Being decent about the law is a good thing when improprieties are being concealed.

What then, in response? If FIFA can’t be reformed, it can be weakened by members who wish to leave. The President of the German Football League, Dr. Reinhard Rauball, is certainly of that view, claiming that UEFA’s 54 member nations may well take the step of leaving the governing body if the Garcia report is not published in full. The rift that had taken place between Garcia and Eckert “was a breakdown of communication, and it has shaken the foundations of FIFA in a way I’ve never experienced before.”[3]

Rauball’s suggestions: publish the ethics committee findings, and Garcia’s bill of indictment “so it becomes clear what the charges were and how they were judged.” Otherwise, “you have to entertain the question of whether you are still in good hands with FIFA.”

Former English Football Association chairman David Bernstein has also put his hat into the ring of opponents, arguing that the FA needs to lobby UEFA for a European boycott of the next World Cup. “FIFA is sort of a totalitarian set-up.”[4] No reform would mean no participation.

For all this heated talk, FIFA remains the official governing body, functioning as silencing oppressor and knotty guardian. Dissent, much like an institutionalised church, is dealt with from within, rather than without. Even Garcia is playing by the rules of internal resolution, taking Eckert’s purportedly distorted summary before the appeals committee. Playing it by the book is fine, as long as the book is not itself rotten.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Notes. 

[1] http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/30122601

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-19/fifa-lodges-criminal-complaint-over-2018-and-2022-world-cups/5901614

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/nov/15/fifa-uefa-world-cup-germany-football?CMP=twt_gu

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/nov/17/david-bernstein-fa-world-cup-2018-2022-fifa-uefa-boycott

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
April 08, 2020
Melvin Goodman
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Body Politic
Eve Ottenberg
Amid Plague, Sanctions are Genocide
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
How China Learned About SARS-CoV-2 in the Weeks Before the Global Pandemic
Bill Quigley
Seven Disturbing Facts About COVID-19 in Louisiana
Joyce Nelson
BlackRock Takes Command
Geoff Dutton
Coronavirus as Metaphor: It’s Not Peanuts
Richard Moser
From Strike Wave to General Strike
Gary Leupp
Could COVID-19 Kill Capitalism?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
Corona, Capital and Class in Germany
Tom Crofton
Aspirational vs Pragmatic: Why My Radicalness is Getting More Radical
Steve Kelly
Montana Ballot Access Decision Suppresses Green Party Voters
Jacob Hornberger
Muhammad Ali’s Fight Against the Pentagon
Phil Mattera
The Rap Sheets of the Big Ventilator Producers
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19?
Rick Baum
When “Moderate” Democrats Lead the Ticket and Win, Down-Ballot Candidates Soon Suffer Losses
Jake Johnston
Tens of Millions Will Be Pushed into Poverty Amid COVID-Induced Recession
Kim C. Domenico
Healthy and Unhealthy Fear in the Age of Coronavirus
John W. Whitehead
Draconian Lockdown Powers and Civil Liberties
Binoy Kampmark
University Bailouts, Funding and Coronavirus
Luke Ruediger
BLM Timber Sale Increases Fire Risk, Reduces Climate Resilience and Harms Recreation
John Kendall Hawkins
Slavoj Žižek’s Virulent Polemic Against Covid-19, and Stuff!
Nyla Ali Khan
Finding Meaning and Purpose in Adversity
April 07, 2020
Joel McCleary – Mark Medish
Paradigm Shift by Pandemic
Matt Smith
Amazon Retaliation: Workers Striking Back
Kenneth Surin
What The President Said (About The Plague)
Patrick Cockburn
The Chaotic Government Response to COVID-19 Resembles the Failures of 1914
Marshall Auerback
The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Opened the Curtains on the World’s Next Economic Model
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Trump Sends Gun Boats to Venezuela While the World Partners to Fight a Deadly Pandemic
Jeremy Lent
Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era. What’s Next?
Dean Baker
The Big Hit: COVID-19 and the Economy
Nino Pagliccia
A Simple Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela: End All “Sanctions”
Colin Todhunter
Locked Down and Locking in the New Global Order
Robert Fisk
Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Enough Information’ on Iran to Have a Vew. How Odd, He Negotiated the Nuclear Deal
Wim Laven
GOP’s Achievement is Now on Display
Binoy Kampmark
Boastful Pay Cuts: the Coronavirus Incentive
Dave Lindorff
It’s Spring and I’ve Turned 71 in a Pandemic-Induced Recession
Steve Brown
FLASH! Trump Just Endorsed Bernie’s Medicare-For-All Health Plan
Marc Haggerty
Class and COVID-19: Those Who Can and Those Who Can’t
Manuel García, Jr.
A Reply to Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day”
George Wuerthner
How Fuel Breaks Fuel Fires
Marshall Sahlins
Election 2020
April 06, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism
W. T. Whitney
Donald Trump, Capitalism, and Letting Them Die
Cesar Chelala
Cuba’s Promising Approach to Cancer
David A. Schultz
Camus and Kübler-Ross in a Time of COVID-19 and Trump
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail