Further Down the Rabbit Hole

So I was wrong, Sepp has fallen and I suppose it makes sense that it would take a law enforcement agency, from a country that doesn’t like football all that much to bring down the governing body of the sport. This outsourcing is a theme that we should look into when the rebuilding or replacing of FIFA begins. The indictment that has brought FIFA to its knees has its origins in 1983, roughly the same time when Jack Warner made his way onto the FIFA executive committee. In their indictment, which carries with it 47 criminal counts levelled at 14 defendants and 25 co-conspirators,  the FBI has named Jack Warner MP as the senior figure in the culture of corruption within FIFA that has gone unfettered for the last 30 years. The detail of Warner’s corruption is staggering and would merit another article, but we needn’t wait for that, he has promised to tell all soon.

The 164 page FBI indictment is concerned with the $160 million worth of illegally obtained money that passed through companies and banks that are resident on American soil. For now, that is the only known reason as to why the FBI has taken an interest. I wait with bated breath on the insights that Vladimir Putin will give for their involvement.

I’ll give you a little taste of the cronyism and corruption and ask you to wonder why no other law enforcement agency has ever brought them to task. Especially considering how relatively easy it was to access information and make connections. Anyway, here’s how Jack Warner MP managed to cultivate a culture of corruption at the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football CONCACAF. Four men who are named in the indictment have also held office at CONCACAF. These men are Jack Warner, Jeffrey Webb, Costas Takkas and Enrique Sanz, a.k.a co-conspirator #4.

  • Warner used to launder some of his illegally obtained money through Fidelity Bank in the Cayman Islands, where Jeffrey Webb was an executive. As luck would have it Jeffrey Webb became president of the Cayman islands FA and was later co-opted into the Caribbean football union. From there, the man who used to launder money on behalf of Warner, managed to find himself as the chairman of the FIFA audit committee as well as FIFA vice-president.
  • Costas Takkas was head of a Cayman Islands holding company named Kosson Ventures where Warner used to store funds. Takkas was appointed as general secretary of the Cayman Islands FA and later became an attaché to his friend Webb at CONCACAF. Oh yes, remember that the Cayman Islands get a vote in the FIFA presidential elections. Sanz comes into the equation and begins to expand the story.
  • Sanz was the general secretary of CONCACAF while Webb was president. One of the many bribes that Sanz brokered was a $1.1 million dollar bribe for Webb from a sports marketing company who wanted TV rights to some CONCACAF tournaments. Sanz was an employee of that company before he became general secretary of CONCACAF.
  • The sports company named Traffic has been identified in the indictment and a senior executive, Aaron Davidson named as one of the defendants. Dishonourable mentions also have to go to other CONCACAF execs who were bribed by Traffic and they are Eduardo Li and Julio Cesar Rocha, both men are also FIFA execs but didn’t happen to work for Warner in the Cayman Islands. What is sickening about Rocha is that he was head of FIFA development projects and directed a lot of those funds to himself. He learned that trick from Jack Warner who used FIFA money to pay himself as the landlord of  the Trinidad and Tobago FA headquarters as well as the Havelange Centre of Excellence and various other ventures.

All of this managed to happen on Blatter’s watch, but wait, there’s more. This virulent culture of corruption wasn’t isolated to CONCACAF. It permeated through all of the associations in the Americas. This includes the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL). This corrupt virus was easily transferred through the FIFA host. Our friends Traffic became involved in a scale of bribery so large that they needed help from two more sports marketing companies named Full Play and Torres. Together they formed a company named Datsia which agreed to pay out $100 million in bribes to CONMEBOL officials and Jeffrey Webb in order to secure TV rights to the Copa America. Webb benefits due to his friendship with Warner who is a close ally of Nicolas Leoz, President of CONMEBOL. Large scale bribery was an easier tactic than individually bribing each Football Association who happened to be hosting the Copa which was the old trend. These CONMEBOL officials also served as FIFA committee members:

  • Eugenio Figeuredo, former FIFA vice president and head of the Uruguayan FA.
  • Nicolas Leoz, president of CONMEBOL from 1986 – 2013 and a member of the FIFA executive committee.
  • Rafael Esquivel, president of Venezuelan FA and CONMEBOL executive committee.
  • Jose Maria Marin, president of the Brazilian FA from 2012-2015 and part of the World cup organising committee.

All in all there are 14 criminal schemes that involve CONCACAF and CONMEBOL and ostensibly FIFA. The indictment is the tome of an utterly rotten organisation that taints all who consort with it.

This endemic corruption had being going on for too long and when Blatter decided to run again, the public and the media had enough. They knew that Blatter was corrupt, but they also knew that he was going to get back in. People wondered how we were ever going to get rid of him. Then the idea of hitting the FIFA coffers came to the fore. We should ask the virtuous sponsors to pressure Blatter to quit. Companies like Nike or as the indictment calls them, Sportswear Company A. Well, they are slightly compromised given the fact that in 1996 they transferred $40 million into a Swiss bank account that an intermediary of the Brazilin FA could access on behalf of its board members including Ricardo Teixera, head of the Brazilian FA at the time. This $40 million was separate to the $160 million kit sponsorship deal and the financial settlement that Nike had to pay UMBRO, also known as Sportswear Company B. for illegally usurping their deal. So let’s leave the finger wagging to Adidas then. Maybe VISA could pressure Sepp. It seems their virtue is compromised too. They had to settle a lawsuit with MasterCard, who they illegally usurped as a title World Cup sponsor with the help of a senior FIFA official. While the FIFA witnesses at trial characterised their breaches as “white lies,” “commercial lies,” “bluffs,” and “the game,” their internal emails discuss the “different excuses to give to MasterCard as to why the deal wasn’t done with them,” “how we can still be seen as having at least some business ethics” and how to “make the whole fuck-up look better for FIFA.” They ultimately confessed, however, that “it’s clear somebody has it in for MasterCard.”

It is true to say that Blatter is not named anywhere in the indictment. However, he is now under investigation by the FBI and one hopes that they will be more thorough than the recent FIFA ethics commission, who essentially chided Blatter for being a bit silly to not have noticed all the corruption going on around him. Blatter was exonerated by his own arbitration panel. Funny that. You could argue that the corruption is going on at the other side of the world and he can’t monitor everyone. Especially considering that the football federations themselves are not technically members of FIFA. It’s their nation states that are. Yeah, didn’t think that would wash with you. So let’s have a look at the corruption on our side of the pond shall we?


The FBI have named Warner as the most corrupt of them all. However, he is only carrying on from the 99 year old ex-president FIFA Joao Havelange. It was Havelange who welcomed Warner into the FIFA fold and it was he who anointed Blatter as his chosen successor instead of the squeaky clean Lennart Johansson. Any notions of gleaning Bribes from TV deals started with Havelange and it was he who entrenched corruption into FIFA. In 1982 Havelange agreed to sell the TV rights to a company called International Sports and Leisure (ISL). He was able to do so because the FIFA executive only required a couple of people to sign off on such deals. Blatter was his secretary general in 1982. This company was owned by a good friend of FIFA, Horst Dasler. Son of Adi Dasler. So now, a major kit sponsor was able to double up as the uncontested TV rights owner too. Ever notice how all the World cup highlights and memories from the 80’s always seemed to involve people wearing Adidas gear?

ISL enjoyed an uninterrupted 20 year exclusive rights deal until they went bankrupt in 2001. Their bankruptcy was to cause FIFA all sorts of discomfort. Its liquidator found ‘unjustified’ payments to football officials. Bogus contracts were created to pay ‘additional rights payments’ and were blithely accepted by the FIFA accountants. ISL insiders advised that the bribes were paid systematically – ‘like salaries’ said one, through a secretive Liechtenstein foundation and an offshore bank account in the Caribbean. These bribes were facilitated by ISL employee Jean-Marie Weber who continued to be an advisor to FIFA during that time. So I guess we can’t rely on Adidas to chastise Blatter from their perch either then.

One man who did not blithely accept this was the liquidator, Thomas Bower. He wanted the money back. Eventually a secret deal was struck, FIFA would return more than a million pounds to ISL’s creditors. In 2005 a court in Lausanne ruled that it could all be done in secret, the names of those repaying the bribes could be kept confidential. However, it was FIFA that repaid the bribes meaning that the individuals involved got to hold on to their money. There was one incident in 1998 that the then general secretary Blatter, could not keep secret. A bribe intended for Havelange accidentally went into the FIFA account instead of Havelange’s secret account. This Sparked a panic and FIFA tried to make the bank erase the records. they were unsuccessful and Havelange had to go. The bribe conveniently escaped everyone’s notice. This left a presidential election between Sepp Blatter and the much respected Lennart Johansson. Johansson ran on a manifesto of transparency, this view was at odds with the voting officials who had received brown envelopes stuffed with cash from Jack Warner the night before the election. Blatter becomes president. The only CONCACAF delegation that didn’t receive any bribe that night was Haiti, because they weren’t there. Blatter need not have worried, a member of Warner’s staff voted on their behalf.

While the FBI continue their investigations, it seems that over in Europe we simply didn’t have the stomach for it. If we kept pulling on this thread, more and more organisations would be drawn in and it would get really awkward and disheartening…… Well, i’m game if you are. ISL didn’t just own the rights to FIFA tournaments. They also owned the TV rights to International Olympic Committee and International Athletics Associations Federation events. In 2008 it was alleged that ISL paid a total of £68 million in kickbacks during their existence. Lamine Diack head of IAAF was found to be receiving kickbacks from ISL. Like FIFA, the IOC have their own ‘ethics committee’ and dealt with it in-house. The IAAF president also admitted receiving three cash payments totalling 52,880 Swiss francs (£36,500). He said they were personal payments from his friend, the ISL executive Jean-Marie Weber (remember him?), to help him after his house burned down, and were not given in return for anything.

Issa Hayatou head of African football was also found to be receiving kickbacks, both were allowed to continue working within the IOC. The IOC advised that Hayatou admitted receiving the payment but pointed to minutes from an African Football Federation (CAF) meeting in 1998 and a certificate provided by its finance director that year to prove that he used the funds for its anniversary, saying that making cash payments was “current practice” at that time. Both Hayatou and Diack remained on in the IOC. The IOC can point to the fact that they cut ties with ISL in 1995 and managed their own TV rights from then on. Until 2004 their head of marketing was ex ISL marketing director Michael Payne. You would wonder what procurement skills he brought over from ISL, oh, I nearly forgot to mention that Joao Havelange was on the IOC committee until 2011.

I’m surprised that UCI and Armstrong haven’t joined the party, yet I wouldn’t be surprised if some awful link is made between these awful organisations, wait, isn’t cycling in the Olympics? There you go, there’s probably some awful cover up going on there somewhere. Maybe Chris Hoy killed a gymnast or something. As we wait on Warner’s eventual capitulation and incrimination of Sepp, let’s look at some options for FIFA.

A New leader and executive must be recruited from outside the auspices of the grimy hands of FIFA, the IOC, the IAAF and the UCI, because what FIFA is currently offering as an alternative is not awe inspiring.

  • Michel Platini backed the Qatar bid and is against the use of goal-line technology. So he is hardly future gazing and squeaky clean.
  • Wolfgang Niersbach is the head of the German FA and is an ex sports journalist but is 64 years of age which precludes him from a long slog.
  • Jerome Champagne, left FIFA in 2010 but came back, there is a good chance that he is tainted.
  • Alfredo Hawit is the new head of CONCACAF and served under Jeffrey Webb, enough said.
  • Michael Van Praag is the president of the Dutch FA and an ex Ajax chairman but he is 67 and won’t bring the vigour needed for the dramatic overhaul.
  • Prince Ali, couldn’t even beat Sepp and he looks shifty to be fair.
  • John Delaney, just threw him in as he is a clone of every FIFA official out there and was happy with $5 million pat on the head.

FIFA, like most corporations is a corrupt dinosaur. The idea of one man to rule them all is ridiculous. An organisation this nebulous needs a parliament, any backlog or disputes could be resolved by bringing in the Court of Arbitration For Sport. A new manifesto is required that incorporates modern demands:

  • More severe penalties for racism, sexism and homophobia.
  • The success of football depends on the public, why not have a publicly elected representative on each of the federations.
  • Football hooliganism is an in house issue that can be solved by banning nations and clubs that consistently offend. This will stamp it out as the coffers of the clubs and FA’s will be hit.
  • Transparent tenders for sponsorship and TV rights, again CAS should be looking into this. No one is incorruptible but make it harder to get away with it.
  • Re-launch World Cup tenders for 2018 and 2022. FIFA will be sued. So what, let them burn. There are plenty of other countries with infrastructure to run in place of Russia. War mongering homophobes need not apply.
  • Third Party ownership of footballers and football associations has to go.
  • Demands on World cup hosts such as; Tax breaks and interference in indigenous law goes out the window.
  • Federations must be subject to stringent investigations.

The likelihood is that Blatter and FIFA will be torn down by Warner’s revelations and FIFA as an entity needs to go. Don’t believe the fear mongering or promises of change from within. FIFA have manoeuvred their way into a position of relevance and plundered billions for themselves and redirected billions out of World Cup host countries for their sponsors. Do you think that if FIFA implodes tomorrow, that we will all forget how to kick a ball and stop supporting our teams and leagues?



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