Own goals

I have just watched a documentary on the investigation of corruption in FIFA (thanks, Jason, for recommending it) and I have to say that, even seasoned criminal-hater that I am, I was left speechless at the brazenness of the actions of those involved.  I won’t rehash all the details – there is an excellent BBC article that summarises who has admitted or been accused of doing what – but a couple of things did make me shake my head in disbelief.

Firstly, the investigative journalist concerned – a very sprightly, determined and engaging chap called Andrew Jennings – did most of his pieces to camera from outside various FIFA meetings.  Although he holds a perfectly valid and respectable media pass from the BBC, he has been banned by FIFA from attending their press conferences and other media gatherings, presumably because he has been a thorn in their side for fifteen years now.  Indeed, the rather less lovely Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago (former vice-president of FIFA and one-time Minister of National Security of his country) commented that he would like to spit on Jennings because he is garbage, to which Jennings gave his usual response of “Oh dear”.  When a journalist is banned from press conferences, it has to make you question the openness and transparency of the host organisation.

And secondly, there was an interesting interview with a charming and urbane South Korean gentleman called Chung Mong-joon, sixth son of the founder of Hyundai.  Another former vice-president of FIFA, he was asked by Jennings about a $500,000 donation he had made to victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2010 – a very generous gesture, but for some reason he made the payment not directly to the Haitian authorities, but to Jack Warner.  Chung’s eyes slid away from Jennings’ face as he explained that it seemed a good idea at the time, and Warner had promised to pass the money on – you will be shocked, shocked I tell you, to hear that the money has inexplicably gone astray.  When even the person telling the story cannot believe it, you have to wonder quite how they thought they would get away with it.  But get away with it they have, for many years, and once all the charges are laid and all the convictions obtained – as I now feel confident they will be – we have to hope that the FIFA officials concerned were as bad at laundering as they are at lying.

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2 Responses to Own goals

  1. Robert James Long says:

    In my experience (beware! Anecdote here not evidence obviously, but here we go) in terms of corruption there are two ingredients for success.

    Firstly, and this is going to sound quite counter intuitive, be quite brazen about it. When your quite open about behaviour that is corrupt or just morally bankrupt it makes it easier for people to go along with it. “I am not sure this is right, but they would not be so open about it if it was wrong… Everyone is doing it, it must be ok” . The fish doesn’t notice the water it swims in so to speak. (Its partially this reasoning behind the Knapp commission suggesting that “grass eaters” are worse than “meat eaters” even if they are not active in seeking corrupt behaviour as they allow it.).

    The other thing is quite obvious, and it is where FIFA have really successful, is get everyone involved! If everyone is dirty, if everyone benefits then no one will want to or be able to report it. And if they are investigated, then there will be pressure to conclude/truncate or otherwise shut down/hurry up/gloss over the investigation because no one wants to deal with the extent of the foul smell…

    So with Fifa we have a system that we all played along with until we felt it had gone too far/did not give us the world cup and then decided to blow the lid off the whole thing. A cynic might note that it was the USA where football doesn’t hold quite the same sway it does in Europe that proceeded to start going for FIFA. A further act of cynicism may be to compare this to the BAE bribery investigation. A US firm doesn’t win a contract, complains about a system the whole arms industry previously were happy to live with and then a later investigation is shut down not for justice but for political expediency.

    It makes me very angry.

  2. I think you’re right on both counts, Robert. For corruption to thrive, it needs to seem normal and to benefit all those who might otherwise take a stand against it. At FIFA, both were certainly in place. And you’re not the first to suggest that the Americans had more appetite for taking action because “soccer” is not part of their soul – personally, I’m happy to see anyone taking the lead, as long as we get rid of the scumbags who have taken advantages of footie fans for years, often in the poorest parts of the world, simply to enrich themselves. Chuck Blazer had a whole apartment in Trump Tower for his parrot. I ask you, what sort of person is that?
    Best wishes from Susan

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