The story of corruption in the soccer world is plastered all over the news. Numerous key players of FIFA, sports marketing directors as well as the owner of a major broadcasting agency were all arrested while at a New York hotel. Only hours prior to this major arrest, police officials arrested 6 FIFA executives at Baur ar Lac, a luxury hotel in Zurich where FIFA’s annual meetings are held.
Police arrested these two groups of individuals after discovering evidence of major corruption. The charges are tremendous, and each of the 14 defendants face 47-count charges, including racketeering, money laundering and fraud.
The history leading to the major scandal
There is a great deal of history behind the recent arrests of the 14 bigwigs, which dates back to the early 1990’s, and has continued over the years. In 1991, alleged bribes involving more than $150 million were made between FIFA, sports marketing groups and major television broadcasting agencies which gave those involved exclusive television contracts. This means that this major soccer agency has been involved in illegal activity for a period that spans over two decades.
More recent FIFA corruption
When FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in 2010, allegations surfaced that votes were rigged. However, FIFA was able to avoid any charges or investigations by appointing others to take the fall for them. These scapegoats were suspended as a result, which appeared to satisfy the police. This is why an investigation was not pursued.
Details of the recent arrests
Among those arrested were members from two organizations that run North and South American soccer, CONCACAF and CONMEBOL. The members that were arrested in Zurich live in Trinidad, Cayman Islands, Tobago, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Venezuela, and other areas.
Four of the arrested have already pled guilty to the charges, which includes Jose Hawilla, who is the founder and CEO of a major Brazilian sports marketing corporation. In Hawilla’s effort to prevent being sentenced to jail time, he has agreed to turnover over $150 million. Another of the defendants that pled guilty is FIFA executive Charles Blazer, who was investigated last year for possible corruption. Blazer eventually provided the FBI with incriminating evidence that other FIFA members were involved in illegal bribery and other activities.
The president of FIFA, Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, has not been implicated in the scandal. Despite the fact that the FIFA president remains with the company and has not yet been arrested, it seems to be only a matter of time before he will be arrested, just like the other members. Sepp is suspected to have been involved in bribery related to movies, including movies starring actor Brad Pitt.
How the corruption began
FIFA is organized in a manner where it consists of predominantly male members worldwide who are willing to do whatever it takes to be the best at sports. These corrupt members are often voted in illegally, as the votes are rigged to ensure that these corrupt presidents and other bigwigs remain in office and in control. These member have calculated their plans in order to use bribes to reach their goals. FIFA members also receive equal cuts of any incoming revenue, which, of course, is their ultimate goal.
The future of FIFA is unknown. It is not yet known whether new members will be brought in to replace the corrupt ones that have been indicted or not. It’s a waiting game as the investigation continues and as charges are being made. The Justice Department will be watching FIFA very closely, so this will make continued corruption quite difficult to maneuver.
It is also not yet known if any of those found guilty will have to spend time in jail, however, it seems as if they have all been able to avoid being placed in jail for the time being. Despite the fact that many have been successful at avoiding jail-time, the Justice Department is intent on pushing for the most severe punishments possible, even for those who have pled guilty in attempt to receive lighter sentences.
Corruption in sports isn’t a new thing, but the FIFA scandal is larger-than-life and involves so many senior executives worldwide that it’s surprising that arrests hadn’t been made before now.