Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The FIFA Election: Seriously...this is happening...

This Friday, Sepp Blatter will stand for election against former vice president Prince Ali of Jordan. Until about 7 hours ago, he was widely expected to win easily, he had seen two of his other challengers (Michael Van Praag of Holland and Luis Figo of Portugal) off and after nearly two decades worth of political wrangling and glad handing there was nearly no one who would dare challenge him...outside of the cranky Europeans who would like a little more say in matters as its their leagues and their players that make most of the money.

And then...this happened

Okay...that wasn't quite as dramatic as I thought it would be, I mean its a lot of bed sheets and nice brown pants, but still!!

The point is this: Swiss Police arrested 9 current and former FIFA executives including major executives in the CONCAF and CONMEBOL federations.

Accusations of bribery and corruption make up the main list of charges against these officials. Some suggest that broadcasting rights, kit sponsorship deals, and any number of other pieces of football management have been tainted by bribery and black backroom dealing. To which soccer fans around the world replied, "well D'UH!!!" 

Still there's something immensely satisfying after a few weeks of raids on Biker Bars and ISIS camps, it was nice to hear of a raid on a Luxury hotel in Zurich. It was also strangely gratifying to read newly minted Attorney General Loretta Lynch hammer the targets of the probe, noting how their actions have "profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable". As someone who has long rooted for underdogs and against heels, this is a big one.
No more wretched hive of scum and villainy
Exactly what happens next is unclear. I mean, it's clear if you're a an FA executive. Those charged will be extradited to New York to answer their accusations. Meanwhile, Swiss officials have said that they're launching a separate investigation into corruption and bribery surrounding the infamous 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process votes. So basically, if you've been a FIFA official in the last row 30 years or so, it's pretty clear that you'll want to schedule a meeting with your lawyers.

It's clear that FIFA is determined to continue its business as per normal. The Women's World Cup, the various summer tournaments (COSAFA, Gold Cup, Copa America, U-20 Cup, etc.) will continue on as will all the qualifiers and stadium building for Russia 2018. Even the FIFA stupidity will continue too, as evidenced by the fact that they are currently claiming to be one of the victims of these terrible, terrible, men. (Odd that Lynch neglected to mention "immensely powerful/enriched friends and colleagues" alongside the children, impoverished and fans around the globe...)

When it comes down to it on Friday, voters will still have to choose between Sepp Blatter and Prince Ali of Jordan. Blatter is conspicuous only by his absence from the list of accused individuals (and his prominence in being referenced/pictured in every news story covering it). FIFA officials have noted that Blatter "is not dancing in his office...he's not kind of a happy man today saying, 'that's really cool what happened.'"

And yet it's a pretty safe bet that come Friday Blatter will be happy. Because after all think of it like this:
Say you're a voting member in the FIFA parliament. You can A) Vote for Prince Ali as a stand against corruption and the system that enabled it even though many others may not and risk irking the teflon president of the organization who has a habit of making his rivals disappear. B) Vote for Sepp Blatter as a sign of unity and trust for a man who has not been implicated and continue riding the gravy train all the way to Scrooge McDuck's vault (assuming the Feds don't get you first).

We may eventually see some hefty fines and minimum security jail time for the guys (including, apparently the CEO of the NASL), but the games will still be played, he cash registers will still ring out, and this Friday in Vienna, we'll see old Uncle Sepp raise his fists, thank the thronging masses and promise to respect the trust placed in him.

If only that extended to admitting culpability for the culture he's created.

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