Most people associate FIFA, the organization that oversees international soccer, with the quadrennial joy of the World Cup. But as the 2014 tournament begins next week in Brazil, FIFA is plagued by levels of corruption, graft and excess that would shame Silvio Berlusconi…
FIFA was founded in 1904 in Paris as a simple rule-making committee that aimed to regulate the guidelines for a new, rapidly expanding sport when played between nations. Because it was founded in Paris, the organization took its acronym, FIFA, from the French: Fédération Internationale de Football Association. What began as an effort to make sure that practices like punching one’s opponents would not be seen as a legitimate part of the game, morphed over time into one of the most successful and disreputable organizations in the history of sports.
Under the iron-fisted leadership of Sepp Blatter, FIFA has been steeped in rotating scandals for so long, it’s difficult even to imagine its not being immersed in one public relations crisis or another. Mr. Blatter succeeded his mentor, the similarly scandal-plagued João Havelange in 1998. Under his stewardship, FIFA officials have been accused of financial mismanagement, taking bribes and projecting a level of sexism and homophobia that seems to come from another century…
FIFA is supposed to police match-fixing, yet a New York Times investigation revealed that only six people on its staff of 350 are responsible for that enforcement. It is supposed to monitor corruption, but it’s not clear it does. There have long been allegations that bribes secured the 2022 World Cup for Qatar.
The head of FIFA’s own independent governance committee (which was recently disbanded) suggested holding a new vote for the right to host the 2022 World Cup. And the European football federation’s representatives to FIFA have threatened to protest against Mr. Blatter when he declares his intention this week to seek yet another term as FIFA’s head…
Finally, the world is seeing FIFA for what it is: a stateless conglomerate that takes bribes while acting as a battering ram for world leaders who want to use the majesty of the World Cup to push through their development agendas at great human cost.
People don’t have to be displaced and workers don’t need to die for soccer. The World Cup can be staged in countries with existing stadiums and infrastructure. Moreover, the secret bidding process for host countries must end so that soccer isn’t abused for economic and political ends.
It is past time to abolish FIFA. It is like a gangrenous limb that requires amputation before the infection spreads and the beautiful game becomes decayed beyond all possible recognition.
Soccer is worth saving. FIFA needs to take its ball and go home.