FIFA’s funny money
BY 润羽 from 21st Century
Published 2015-06-11


Soccer isn’t exactly a popular sport in the US. But the US Justice Department recently made a dramatic move that has been applauded by fans of the sport worldwide.

US Justice Department officials and prosecutors announced on May 27 a sweeping indictment against 14 soccer officials from world soccer governing body FIFA and marketing executives, wrote The New York Times. These people have been accused of corrupting the sport through two decades of shadowy dealing and $150 million (930 million yuan) in bribes.

Prior to the announcement, in the early morning of May 27, Swiss police came unannounced to a luxury hotel in Zurich and arrested seven FIFA officials. The men found themselves under arrest on federal charges that have usually been brought against mafia families or drug cartels, including racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, and bribery.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch was quoted by The New York Times as saying that the current charges are “only the beginning”, and are part of much broader global efforts to combat FIFA’s corruption. Switzerland on the same day also announced a parallel investigation that will focus on the bidding process for the 2018 Russia and 2022 Qatar World Cup Finals. It has long been rumored both countries won bidding to host the tournaments through bribery.

Tumbling down

These developments could actually bring down the powerful FIFA. The organization was founded in 1904, when eight European nations agreed to cooperate in organizing international matches. In the past 40 years, says Slate’s Stefan Fatsis, FIFA has survived a string of scandals and corrupt officials. “Its offices have been raided; its business partners have stood trial; and its members have been purged for bribery, embezzlement, kickbacks, vote-buying, and other wrong-doings.”

Political ripples

There are political implications involving the US, UK and Russia stemming from the corruption probe into the soccer organization.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the US of meddling in FIFA’s affairs and hinted the charges are part of an attempt to take the 2018 World Cup away from his country.

Putin said in televised comments that he found it “odd” that a probe was launched at the request of US officials for alleged crimes that did not happen in the US, reported US-based CBS News.

Ever since the scandalous arrest of the FIFA executives last week, association president Sepp Blatter has been under unprecedented pressure from top soccer executives and European politicians, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who are demanding he give up without a struggle and step down from his post.

What’s next?

After winning his fifth term at the helm of FIFA, Sepp Blatter set a defiant tone in his first press conference, blasting the US corruption probe and suggesting there was a US-backed campaign to oust him.

According to an article on explanatory journalism website, the charges aren’t an inclusive summary of all the wrongdoings that may or may not be happening within FIFA. Rather, they’re tightly focused on just one aspect of alleged corrupt activity – in this case, the distribution of broadcast rights for soccer games.

The website thus concluded that Sepp Blatter, who was not charged last Wednesday, may not be off the hook.

(Translator & Editor: 21英语 Kong Shaofei and Lang Xiuqiang)
Prosecutor  检察官
Indictment  起诉书
Mafia  黑手党
Launch  洗(钱)
Bribery  贿赂
Embezzlement  挪用
Allege  宣称