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FIFA and Corruption: overcoming the problems in soccer's governing body

The FIFA Corruption CaseFIFA corruption scandal

Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, and looking back at FIFA in 2016, makes one wonder how the organization's legacy of corruption wasn't uncovered much earlier.

Now that the cat is out the bag, there is no shortage of books written about it. 

It was in early 2016 that former FIFA president Sepp Blatter was ejected from office. Blatter hasn't gone quietly into the sunset after the allegations of bribes and improprieties made him soccer's public enemy number one.

In June, Blatter accused the draws for European soccer competitions of being rigged. However, the Swiss claimed to have never cheated anyone as FIFA president, but most soccer fans know that is not the case.

FIFA corruption, a long-term problem

Much of the corruption that has been investigated by officials dates back to pre-World Cup 1994; which was hosted by the United States.

With the USA promising to build a domestic league, some way and somehow when FIFA granted them the competition, one can't help but think of what was given privately? Though nothing has ever been found.

What is known, is that brides were paid during the 1998 and 2010 World Cup bidding processes. It is estimated that more than $100 million was paid in bribes.

Some have alleged the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan was also fixed, allowing Korea to co-host. Watching the matches, it would seem the referees were also on the take, but that is another topic for another day.

In early 2016, it was said that 41 officials were at fault for much of the recent bribery and corruption at FIFA.

Two of the biggest criminals at FIFA, Chuck Blazer and Jack Warner, had received $10m in payments in connection for South Africa holding the 2010 World Cup.

Current FIFA president Gianni Infantino has pledged to fix the broken soccer system.

"The convicted defendants abused the positions of trust they held at FIFA and other international football organizations and caused serious and lasting damage to FIFA, its member associations and the football community," Infantino said in an interview.

"The monies they pocketed belong to global football and were meant for the development and promotion of the game. FIFA as the world governing body of football wants that money back and we are determined to get it no matter how long it takes."

President Infantino

Gianni Infantino is the ninth president of FIFA and a lot of soccer fans have big expectations for him. However, there is also the belief that the same tactics that have prevailed in FIFA will continue.

FIFA has already moved to distance itself from the problems of the past. The group enacted sweeping reforms in February 2016. The biggest move made was to limit president's to three terms.

Though it seems a three term president could still do as much destruction as those presidents like Blatter.

The reforms have also outlined the separation of FIFA's 'strategic interests and management functions'. In addition, no longer will FIFA's executive's be allowed to withhold salary information. All salaries will now be made public.

These are just a few of the ways football's governing body hopes to show transparency to the world. But will it work or is it too ingrained into the organization?

The ingrained problem

There is no doubt that money talks when it comes to sports; not just soccer. As the world's most popular sport, money has been used to gain an advantage throughout the history of the game.

From paying off referees with cash, prostitutes or presents to buying votes for World Cups, corruption is as much of the system as the soccer is a part of it.

Corruption isn't just a problem of FIFA, but it is a problem of the world. For centuries, those with financial backing have been able to acquire what they seek.

It isn't just in soccer, but in politics or business, too. In fact, in some countries that have top FIFA representatives, corruption is a normal aspect of everyday life.

Cleaning up the organization isn't going to happen overnight, and may not even happen under Infantino's first term as president. To resolve the problems that have occurred, it will take time and it must be manned by people who want to make a change.

However, those people are only human, and the same temptations that helped put FIFA in its current state could influence them, too.

Can it work?

It sounds cliche, but only time will tell if the reforms and Infantino's leadership changes FIFA's course. Just searching for news on FIFA results in few immediate hits on the group's corruption cases and plethora of negative publicity.

With several decades of corruption, and who knows, some of the dodgy dealings of FIFA that date back long before the modern era of soccer, it is hard to think all of the problems will be over.

Yet, if the group can clean up the big bribery scandals that have gone down over the last 20 to 30 years, then world soccer has a bright future.

Will there be anymore corruption in soccer?

There is no doubt that, at some level, there will be some problems somewhere down the line. There is just far too much money in the world's game from advertisers, clubs and agents for it not to happen at some level.

In fact, the amount of money that is in the game today is scary, and many of the world's average fans many not realize just how much is financially at stake.

With the next two World Cups being held in countries that have allegedly bought the games, FIFA will go into the next host country selection process on eggshells.

By choosing a country based on merit or tradition, FIFA may be able to restore much of the luster it lost in the last two decades.

Corruption was not a new allegation, but something that was always mentioned. It just took the right people to follow the money, and now change is in the air.

 

By Drew Farmer, author of Soccer Travels


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