Listen, if you didn’t realize soccer was the most corrupt sport in the world, well, it is. If we’re being honest, there’s no way that Qatar secured the rights to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup on its own accord, beating out several bidding countries far more qualified to host the world’s biggest sporting tournament.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Late Tuesday night, a United States-headed investigation saw nine FIFA officials and five business executives arrested in Zurich, Switzerland, indicted on charges ranging from racketeering conspiracy to corruption, and collusion.
To any fan of the beautiful game, this monumental storming of the FIFA gates was a long time coming. And the ramifications look to be grave for all involved if U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch sees the charges through as she intends to.
A 47-count indictment was unsealed early this morning in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging 14 defendants with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with the defendants’ participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer. The guilty pleas of four individual defendants and two corporate defendants were also unsealed today.
The defendants charged in the indictment include high-ranking officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the organization responsible for the regulation and promotion of soccer worldwide, as well as leading officials of other soccer governing bodies that operate under the FIFA umbrella. Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner – the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States – are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses. The defendants also include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.
Those are some very big wigs in the world of soccer, a very big chunk of change, and some very harsh criminal charges that the DoJ is levying. Frankly, though, it’s been widely speculated in many circles worldwide that this illegal behavior has been occurring for some time now, even long before Qatar somehow managing to land FIFA’s 2022 World Cup despite a vast lack of infrastructure and necessary accommodations when compared with other potential suitors vying for the world’s biggest sporting event to take place in their respective countries.
You can likely chalk the corruption up to soccer’s deep political roots, and of course, the greed that innately runs deep in those political circles.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said Attorney General Lynch. “It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the youth leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organizations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable. Today’s action makes clear that this Department of Justice intends to end any such corrupt practices, to root out misconduct, and to bring wrongdoers to justice – and we look forward to continuing to work with other countries in this effort.”
Attorney General Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the authorities of the government of Switzerland, as well as several other international partners, for their outstanding assistance in this investigation.
“Today’s announcement should send a message that enough is enough,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Currie. “After decades of what the indictment alleges to be brazen corruption, organized international soccer needs a new start – a new chance for its governing institutions to provide honest oversight and support of a sport that is beloved across the world, increasingly so here in the United States. Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.”
Dropping the hammer, finally.
Here’s a list of the nine FIFA officials facing charges associated with the rampant corruption throughout the past two decades.
Jeffrey Webb: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) executive committee member and Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) president.
Eduardo Li: Current FIFA executive committee member-elect, CONCACAF executive committee member and Costa Rican soccer federation (FEDEFUT) president.
Julio Rocha: Current FIFA development officer. Former Central American Football Union (UNCAF) president and Nicaraguan soccer federation (FENIFUT) president.
Costas Takkas: Current attaché to the CONCACAF president. Former CIFA general secretary.
Jack Warner: Former FIFA vice president and executive committee member, CONCACAF president, CFU president and Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) special adviser.
Eugenio Figueredo: Current FIFA vice president and executive committee member. Former CONMEBOL president and Uruguayan soccer federation (AUF) president.
Rafael Esquivel: Current CONMEBOL executive committee member and Venezuelan soccer federation (FVF) president.
José Maria Marin: Current member of the FIFA organizing committee for the Olympic football tournaments. Former CBF president.
Nicolás Leoz: Former FIFA executive committee member and CONMEBOL president.
Complete information regarding all the charges brought against FIFA and its cohorts in crime can be found here in the U.S. DoJ’s press release.
It’s safe to say there’s going to be some restitution taking place for these crimes in due time, and that the very face of the game of soccer may hang in the balance accordingly. Almost ironic that it’s the United States taking the reigns, but then again, justice dearly needs served and that’s what we do best.