On May 27th, Swiss police agents arrested nine officials of the International Federation of Football Associations or FIFA, the organization which governs major soccer tournaments including the World Cup. Along with these officials, five corporate executives from sports companies were arrested. The Swiss government is extraditing these officials to the U.S. where they have been brought up on charges of financial manipulation, speculation and bribery. As attorney general Loretta Lynch stated, “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States.”
It has been a long-standing assumption by soccer fans and commentators around the world that FIFA is full of corruption. Look at the way different countries fight to host the World Cup. They promise huge marketing offers to major corporations, construct enormous stadiums and complexes, and pledge millions of dollars in the hopes that FIFA will accept their bid. And that is just the official story. Everyone suspected that behind the scenes more resources were expended in bribery, fraud, and cheating in order to secure the right to host the biggest games in the world. The recent arrest of the FIFA officials only exposes a barely-concealed fact.
The level of corruption revealed by the arrest is shocking. Since the 1990s FIFA officials have accepted $150 million in bribes from major sports companies and government officials. For example, former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner received an alleged $10 million bribe to cast his vote for South Africa to host the World Cup in 2010.
FIFA is supposedly concerned about human rights in the countries that will host the World Cup. But in some cases it seemed like they had gone blind. In Qatar, 1,200 workers have died working in slave-labor conditions since 2010 when FIFA awarded the Qatari monarchy the right to host the 2022 games. How much money did the Qatari government pay for FIFA to look the other way?
It’s clear the fat cats in FIFA have been using their positions to skim the cream off of the top of the billion dollar soccer industry. But the FIFA scandal is just the tip of the iceberg.
How different is the corruption in FIFA from the greed and manipulation everywhere in this society? The U.S. government has recently accepted felony plea bargains from five of the world’s largest banks included JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup. These banks have plead guilty to financial crimes that laid the basis for the massive economic crash of 2008. Each bank will pay around one billion dollars in fines and penalties. But meanwhile the banks own hundreds of billions of dollars each, sucking the wealth out of the world economy and profiting from the ongoing economic crisis. The bailouts since 2008 have seen JPMorgan receive $25 billion, and Citigroup received $45 billion. No wonder even after the banks plead guilty, their stock prices rose!
The corrupt officials in FIFA made their money exploiting a game which is loved by billions of people around the world. The corrupt bankers at JPMorgan and Cititgroup used fraudulent loans and trading practices to enrich themselves while ordinary people were thrown out of their homes and out of their jobs. These crimes aren’t accidental, they are the outcome of the capitalist system which puts profit and exploitation above everything else.
Everything in our lives is wrapped up in money, profit, and corruption. From the necessities of life, to the sports we follow, we are victims of those who make themselves out to be the indispensable leaders, officials, and owners. Their dirty secret is that they are nothing but frauds and cheats. It is ordinary working people who build homes, stadiums, and everything else under the sun. The FIFA officials, bankers, and others have committed, enormous fraud it is true. But the real scandal is their system which allows the wealthy elite to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us.