Monday, October 18, 2010

A world unto itself – FIFA, corruption and the World Cup

News from the Times of London that the paper had snared two members of FIFA’s executive council, two of the 24 men entrusted with determining who will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup’s had been caught agreeing to ‘bribes’ for their votes. This should not have come as a surprise to anyone who follows, FIFA President for Life, Sepp Blatter and two of his band of merry men.

The Sunday Times reported that Amos Adamu (FIFA’s Nigerian executive committee member) and Reynald Temarii (president of the Oceania Football Confederation) both allegedly asked for payment in return for their votes.

Reporters from the newspaper attended meetings with the members in question, posing as lobbyists representing an American sporting consortium who were keen on ‘ensuring’ extra votes for the U.S World Cup bid, for which both Amos Adamu (FIFA’s Nigerian executive committee member) and Reynald Temarii (president of the Oceania Football Confederation) both allegedly asked for payment in return.

The BBC claim that Adamu was chasing $800,000 to be paid directly into his personal bank account. The money was to be used as funding for the building of four artificial football pitches in his homeland. Temarii was looking for three times that amount to part-finance a sporting academy in Auckland, Australia.

FIFA reacted to the report Monday issuing the following statement: FIFA can confirm that it has submitted two requests to the Ethics Committee.

FIFA has opened proceedings against two current members of the FIFA Executive Committee to ascertain whether they have violated the FIFA Code of Ethics. They have asked the chairman of the Ethics Committee to act without delay and to take all possible steps, including the possibility of provisional measures, should the relevant conditions be met. Investigations are also ongoing in relation to other FIFA officials who may have been involved with the issue in question.

FIFA also confirms that the alleged agreements between member associations would also be a clear violation of the Bid Registration document and the Code of Ethics. Therefore, an investigation has also been opened into the member associations in question as well as their Bid Committees. FIFA has again asked the chairman of the Ethics Committee to act without delay to take all possible steps, including the possibility of provisional measures, should the relevant conditions be met.

This is not the first time and it certainly will not be the last time FIFA and alleged corruption will be said in the same sentence.

At the head of FIFA’s class is the organization’s President for Life, Sepp Blatter. He was elected on 8 June 1998, succeeding João Havelange.

From day one “controversy, FIFA and Sepp Blatter” have often been said in the same sentence. Blatter's 1998 election to the presidency of FIFA over UEFA President Lennart Johansson occurred amidst much controversy. His 2002 candidacy had been marked with rumours of financial irregularities and backroom dealings, culminating with direct accusations of bribery. One such accusation came from a third party, made in the British press by the Farra Ado, vice-president of the CAF and president of the Somalian football association, who claimed to have been offered $100,000 to vote for Blatter in 1998.

Amidst internal divisions, FIFA's secretary-general, Blatter's deputy and former protégé, Michel Zen-Ruffinen drew up a 30-page dossier outlining allegations of financial mismanagement within the organisation.

The dossier alleged that the collapse of FIFA's marketing partner ISL had led to losses of up to $100 million under Blatter's management. The allegations were backed by Johansson and the dossier was handed to the Swiss authorities. They later cleared him of any wrong doing and FIFA had to pay all the costs. An internal investigation within FIFA was halted by Blatter because members of it broke confidentiality agreements. This questionable behaviour led him to remove Zen-Ruffinen from office immediately before the FIFA World Cup 2002.

Blatter’s reign pales in comparison to Jack Warner, a FIFA Vice-President and CONCACAF President. Warner has been a member of the FIFA Executive Committee since 1983 and CONCACAF President since 1990. His Presidential term will end in 2011.

In early December 2006, FIFA’s ‘ethics committee’, an oxymoron if there ever was [An oxymoron (plural oxymora or, more commonly, oxymorons) (noun) is a figure of speech that combines two normally contradictory terms] announced the results of their investigation into charges FIFA senior vice-president Jack Warner had created his own secondary ticket market with tickets to this summer’s World Cup in Germany. According to FIFA’s own independent auditors, Warner allegedly profited close to $1 million in the reselling of tickets he had purchased.

FIFA’s auditors Ernst and Young identified that World Cup tickets purchased by FIFA senior vice-president Jack Warner were resold for thee times their face value by Warner’s son Daryan. According to Ernst and Young the tickets where sold through the Trinidad and Tobago travel agency Simpaul, which is owned by Warner's family.

When the Ernst and Young report was first released, Czar Sepp announced the formation of an ethics committee. The so-called ethics committee was originally chaired by Sebastian Coe the head of the London’s 2012 Olympic Organizing Committee (FIFA lists Claudio Sulser as the current chairman of their ethics committee)

How serious was Herr Sepp about dealing with the charges levelled against Warner? Consider Coe’s mandate -- he was not granted the authority to step in on cases retrospectively that predated his appointment. The ethics committee would have no power whatsoever to look seriously at any ethical issues that predated their appointment.

Herr Sepp released the following statement regarding the alleged ticket selling practices of one of Herr Sepp’s most trusted associates, Jack Warner.

"It could not be evidenced that Mr. Jack Warner had knowledge of the resale of these tickets at a higher price. The resale is certainly forbidden, but the person who did the re-selling is not subject to the FIFA jurisdiction, because it is the son of Jack Warner."

This despite ample evidence from FIFA’s appointed and independent auditors, that Warner had been at the center of a million dollar ticket reselling scandal. And if Herr Sepp is to be believed; how effective can Jack Warner be as a senior FIFA official when Warner (if Herr Sepp again is too be believed) was not aware his own son was reselling tickets Warner had purchased for three times their face value. At the very least, Herr Sepp should have dismissed Warner as FIFA senior Vice President.

Simpaul the travel agency owned by the Warner family reportedly sold World Cup tickets to British football supporters (among the most loyal fans in the world) for England’s quarter-final World Cup game against Portugal.

Mark Perryman, a member of England's official supporters' club, told London’s Daily Mail, after he learnt FIFA wasn’t prepared to seriously address Warner’s reselling of World Cup tickets: "FIFA is quite right to punish fans for hooliganism. Touts and those corporates who take the tickets off fans are hooligans in suits and should be treated likewise. Jack Warner robbed fans of tickets. He is not the only one - he has got off very lightly.

"What we need FIFA to do - rather than protecting their own - is to launch a serious investigation into why hundreds of thousands of tickets - the numbers are almost unbelievable - are awarded to sponsors and VIPs at the fans' expense. There were virtually no instances of hooliganism at World Cup 2006 - a fact which should be celebrated - but the scandal of Germany 2006 was the story of those tickets in corporate hospitality pockets."

And for Warner – the fun only began with the alleged reselling of tickets. Before the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Warner, as special advisor to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation, brokered a deal between the Federation and the players on Trinidad and Tobago's 2006 World Cup team to share the proceeds from their participation in the World Cup. After the tournament, the Federation declared revenue of TT$18.25 million, costs of TT$17.9 million and offered the players a split of TT$5,644.08 per player. The players rejected this figure, disputing the Federation's numbers. Warner criticized the players for refusing to accept the T&TFF's unaudited statement, saying “What Trinidad is suffering from is from a situation whereby 16 or 18 players are holding a country and a federation to ransom because of greed.”

Shaka Hislop, the interim president of the Football Players Association of Trinidad and Tobago responded with a letter to Warner writing “You have continually proven yourself heavily biased and opinionated in this matter.”

The Trinidad and Tobago government later revealed that the Federation received in excess of TT$173 million for their part in the tournament in Germany.

The T&TFF proposed that the bonus dispute be heard before the UK Sports Dispute Resolution Panel and the players agreed. Arbitrator Ian Mill QC heard the case and ruled that Warner had “the authority of the TTFA to commit it to financial transactions" and that the players were entitled to 50 per cent of the FIFA World Cup participation money and the commercial revenues gained from Trinidad and Tobago's qualification, as well as half the net income from World Cup warm-up matches.

The players' lawyer, Michael Townley, said "At the moment, the players have not received a single cent" and alleged that the T&TFF defaulted on its payment to the arbitration body

What, if anything, can the sports world expect from Sepp and the latest FIFA embarrassment – not a great deal as history has clearly shown.

According to the Voice of Leadership, a source close to the executive said that both Adamu and Temarii could find themselves suspended or off the committee if the claims against them are substantiated.

"FIFA will not allow anyone or anything to damage the reputation of the voting procedure and it could be that 22 men might make the decision, not 24," the source said.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has written an open letter to the Executive Committee, which can be found on fifa.com, stating that the information in the Sunday Times article has created a very negative impact on FIFA and on the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups and asking the members to “refrain from making any public comments on this matter”

The current corruption allegations made towards Amos Adamu are just the latest in a series of claims made against him. Olukayode Thomas, Nigerian investigative journalist, has investigated Adamu for years and has through his research unearthed several acts of corruption, intimidation, bribery and vote-fixing.

And remember this FIFA’s so called ethics committee has no power (the Jack Warner case as Exhibit A), whatever decision is made will be made by one man and one man alone, the only Sepp Blatter.

For SportsBusinessNews.com this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: Wikipedia, http://playthegame.org and FIFA

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