ESPN Documentary Keeps FIFA Corruption Allegations in the Headlines
18 May, 2015By: Tracey Schelmetic
Organization's President, Currently Under U.S. Investigation, Insists He Has Nothing to Hide
FIFA is no stranger to scandal. It is currently the target of an investigation into suspicions of possible irregularities in the way nations are awarded hosting of World Cup events. The organization also has been accused of ignoring the concerns of national soccer organizations, and critics say it doesn’t put enough of its record profits back into the game. FIFA has even been accused of sexism recently with its refusal to move the Women’s World Cup onto natural turf, bringing up charges of preferential treatment for male World Cup players, who were allowed to play on natural grass.
Now, the attention is being focused on current FIFA president, Swiss national Sepp Blatter. A recently aired ESPN documentary made claims that the 79-year-old Blatter, who is currently seeking a new term as FIFA president, has deliberately avoided travel to the U.S. because of the FBI investigation, which was initiated in 2011 to address corruption charges.
"I know this and everybody knows that in the US there is an investigation against former (FIFA) people," Blatter told a group of reporters at the world football body's headquarters in Zurich. "But it is nothing against me," he added.
According to AFP news service, the ongoing FBI investigation is focusing on the actions of former CONCACAF Americas regional confederation officials Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and Chuck Blazer of the U.S., both of whom are former members of the FIFA executive committee. The allegations involve misconduct in the way hosting rights for the World Cup in 2018 and 2022 were awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively
Last year, American lawyer Michael Garcia was asked by FIFA to investigate and found what he called "serious and wide-ranging issues" with the process of awarding World Cups. Garcia resigned from the FIFA ethics committee after he challenged FIFA's summary of his confidential dossier.
In any case, Blatter told reporters that he will definitively need to visit the U.S. in June of 2016 for the Copa America centenary tournament. FIFA will hold a vote for a president on May 29. Despite indicting in the past that his current term would be his last, Blatter is standing against Dutch football association chief Michael van Praag, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan and former Portuguese football star Luis Figo, according to AFP.
Prince Ali of Jordan, an outgoing FIFA vice president, told the Associated Press recently that he has been shocked at the insularity of FIFA, noting that the organization must give national associations a greater say in the governance of world football and adopt a more regional outlook because "You cannot run everything simply from Zurich," he said.
FIFA revenue topped $2 billion last year, adding $91 million to its reserves, which now stand at $1.523 billion after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, according to the Associated Press.