After 18 grueling months of investigative work, Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the governing body of international soccer, has found itself not guilty of any accounts of bribery or corruption.
Soccer fans across the globe can take a collective sigh of relief knowing their beloved game is, in fact, not controlled by an entity that more closely resembles the Legion of Doom than it does a governing body.
No longer do they have to worry about the seemingly endless rumors of corruption or vote-trading. Nor do they have to question why the next two FIFA World Cups are being held in Russia and Qatar. These two countries were chosen over the likes of England and the United States not because of hefty bribes and gift bags, but because of Russia and Qatar’s passionate love for the beautiful game.
In an ideal world, all of this would be true; sadly it’s not. FIFA is a laughably corrupt organization whose only interest includes bribes and general skullduggery by executive members.
Last Thursday, FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert ended the in-house investigation into the bidding contests almost four years after the World Cup voting ended, stating that FIFA’s governing body was only deserving of praise for the way they conducted the bidding for the World Cup.
This should come as no surprise to anyone. When an organization suspected of corruption investigates itself, they will always find that they did nothing wrong.
However, in true FIFA fashion, even this investigation could not come to a close without its own controversy.
Primary investigator Michael Garcia said Eckert’s abbreviated 42-page summary on his initial 420 page report contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations.
Garcia’s initial findings reportedly questioned the motivations (legalease for bribery) of FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter, as well as those of a handful of other FIFA executives.
Garcia plans to present an appeal to FIFA’s ethics committee, according to ESPN FC. To get to the FIFA ethics committee, he must first gain approval from two other committees. The first being FIFA’s investigatory committee, which he is the chairman. Assuming he grants himself approval, Garcia will then move on the adjudicatory committee which Eckert, the same man he is filing an appeal against, is the chairman. Unless Eckert finds himself under suspicion, the appeal process will end here.
So what now? It’s painfully obvious that FIFA cannot regulate itself. There seems to be only two paths of action that could force FIFA to change the way it conducts business.
The first way would be through the fans and media.
It’s clear the only thing the governing board of FIFA truly cares about is money. If the World Cup was to lose a handful of its major sponsors due to a fan-based boycott, of either the sponsors’ products or the games themselves, that might be enough to see a change in action.
This is highly unlikely to happen and FIFA knows it. All they have to do is wait for the first whistle to blow in Russia during the next World Cup and all of this controversy will melt away the same way it did in Brazil. The entire nation was in protest over how much money it had spent to host the games in Brazil and how that money could have been put to better use. Daily rioting and protest over the games was televised.
Talking heads and columnists across the world began to question the selection of Brazil and the morals of FIFA. This all changed seconds after the first kickoff. Global focus shifted from the coverage of protests to the daily highlights and where each nation stood in its group.
While fans may not be able to escape the enticing allure and distraction that is World Cup soccer, the competing nations just might.
President of the German Football League Reinhard Rauball stated they are willing to quit FIFA if Garcia’s full report is not available to the public.
“As a solution, two things must happen. Not only must the decision of the ethics committee be published, but Mr. Garcia’s bill of indictment too, so it becomes clear what the charges were and how they were judged,” Rauball said in an interview with German website Kicker Online. “It must be made public. That is the only way FIFA can deal with the complete loss of credibility.”
Having Germany, the reigning World Cup champions, come forward and demanding transparency is the only glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak situation. If other major European nations began to follow Germany’s lead, FIFA would have no choice but to reveal the report and begin to sanitize their organization.
In the coming weeks, hopefully more nations will take the same stance that Germany has so we can begin to genuinely address the corruption that has been taking place FIFA. However, this is just wishful thinking.
Despite the egregious intolerance toward homosexuals and countless human rights violations in both Russia and Qatar, there’s a good chance that nothing will happen to FIFA, and neither World Cup venue will change.