Imagine that you run a large global organisation that is being investigated by the FBI. Reports emerge suggesting that the FBI has reason to believe that a few years ago two of the most senior people within your organisation may have been involved in making corrupt payments to influence the outcome of the biggest commercial decision your organisation had to make at the time. Would you a) express grave concern and re-iterate your determination to uncover and eliminate any form of corruption within your organisation; or b) say 'no comment'. If your answer is 'b', you should consider a career at FIFA.
I find it hard to be shocked now by the allegations that are made about FIFA's top executives. After all, over the last three years half of the members of its executive committee have resigned in the face of one allegation or another. Its former, and long serving president, was also personally involved in a scandal, where it was alleged that he took brides in office, linked to the awarding of lucrative commercial contracts.
However, these latest allegations and FIFA's response are truly shocking. Reports are suggesting that former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner personally received over £700,000 in payments after the decision was taken in 2010 to award the right to stage the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. He has however denied the allegation. But if this is proven to be true, then FIFA must re-open the process to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, and also hold an independent and transparent inquiry into the previous bidding process.
FIFA seems to treat this kind of scrutiny with complete contempt. It needs to realise that it does not own world football; but is merely the governing body of the sport. It gives the impression of being full of a lot of hard faced old men who have grown rich from the game, and whose instinctive response to any crisis is to cover for each other.
Football can be the most terrific force for good in the world, but to reach its full potential, the game must be run by an organisation we can trust. So what can be done about it? Firstly, the national associations around the world, who are the members of FIFA's council, must take a tougher line on investigating allegations of corruption. Secondly, football fans should register their anger with their local football associations, and with the major companies that sponsor FIFA and the World Cup. There should also be a role for national governments and parliaments to register their concerns.
People power is the vital weapon though. It is the millions of pounds spent by fans around the world on football matches, merchandise and associated products that has made football rich. If they can demonstrate their anger, change within FIFA will be possible.
The FBI investigation has also rightly demonstrated, that not even FIFA can be above international law and law enforcement.
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