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The International Federation of Association Football, commonly known as FIFA, is making international sports headlines this week amid allegations of corruption. FIFA is the international governing body of football (better known as soccer to us Americans). Lord David Triesman, the former chairman of The Football Association (FA) and the head of England’s failed 2018 World Cup bid, accused four leading FIFA executives of influence peddling.
According to Lord Triesman, the allegedly wayward executives solicited bribes from potential host countries in exchange for their World Cup votes. Triesman claims that FIFA executives Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and Worawi Makudi of Thailand sought monetary bribes as payment for their votes while Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay had no interest in money, but rather “believed that a knighthood from the United Kingdom would be appropriate” since he “was personally a very wealthy man.” And purportedly Ricardo Teixeira from Brazil told Triesman to “come and tell me what you have for me.”
These allegations remain unproven and have been vehemently denied, but nonetheless cast serious doubt on the votes that awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. Following the initial accusations, four other members of FIFA’s executive committee were accused of similar behavior meaning that eight out of the 24 members of the committee have allegedly engaged in “improper and unethical behavior.” Among the additional allegations is that two FIFA executives, Issa Hayatou and Jacques Amouma, were paid $1.5 million to vote for Qatar.
Unfortunately, as noted by the UK Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, the problem is that these allegations “are going to be very difficult to actually prove because these were just conversations [Lord Triesman] had with individuals.” And even if the allegations are proven true, the bigger problem is that there is no feasible legal remedy for this corruption. FIFA is a sports governing body that functions more like an oligarchy than a democracy. The 24 FIFA executives make decisions behind closed doors and those on the outside have absolutely no say. This lack of transparency translates into a complete lack of accountability largely due to the the sheer number of member associations and legal jurisdictions involved, which make any form of legal enforcement a near impossibility.
The only way to hold these executives accountable is if soccer fans come together internationally and across national borders. But this sort of widespread fan organization is so unlikely (and FIFA executives are fully aware of this) that the more likely outcome is that soccer governance will remain in the hands of a select few and FIFA will continue to battle claims of corruption in the future.
- Carolina Blanco
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