Today, Australian whistleblower Bonita Mersiades, the former communications head of Australia’s 2022 World cup bid team, and co-founder of New FIFA Now, reiterated her assertions that the bidding process involving the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was rigged and that moneys changed hands to ensure the winners were predetermined. She had previously made these assertions in 2014 to Michael Garcia who included them in his report to FIFA’s ethics committee. That report was deemed to have “insufficient evidence to pursue any wrongdoing” according to that committee, which subsequently dismissed the allegations. The catalyst for Mersiades’ repeated assertions seems to be the interview the ex-FIFA President gave yesterday.
Yesterday, Sepp Blatter argued in a Tass interview that FIFA’s downward spiral was Michel Platini’s fault. He also said he European Union had voted to block his reelection to FIFA’s presidency and that UEFA did not want him to continue leading the organization despite the fact that “many other confederations” that did want him to remain. Furthermore, the Swiss authorities and public had been harsh to him because he came from a small canton in Switzerland which the big city dwellers thought only produced “primitive” folks. To his credit he did not blame any other person, sports organization, country, or regional governmental organization by name.
Platini is to blame for FIFA’s current legal problems because “He wanted to be FIFA president but he did not have the courage to go [run for] as the president,” Blatter said. He went further, explaining that all facts to the contrary “FIFA is not in crisis, the government of FIFA is in crisis.” The organization works, but the people who run it are mismanaging it, he argued. And who were those administrators? Well the Executive Committee members who are interested in limiting the elected president’s tenure but not their appointed tenures, and the Ethics Committee members who “I put…into office…and they don’t even listen to me.” Let that one simmer for a bit, it only gets better.
For then he dropped a bombshell that turned a threadbare FIFA transparent.
“In 2010 we had a discussion of the World Cup and went to a double decision…it was agreed that we go to Russia [in 2018]…and for 2022 we go back to America. And everything was good until the moment when [French President] Sarkozy came in a meeting with the crown price of Qatar (now the ruler of Qatar) Tamim bin Hmad Al Thani. [After that meeting] Mr. Platini said it would be good to go to Qatar. [Subsequently a vote was held] and four votes from Europe which were to have gone to USA, went away. If the USA was given the World Cup, we would only speak about the wonderful World Cup 2018 in Russian and we would not speak about any problems at FIFA.”
The admission that an understanding was already in hand among FIFA decision makers, and that outsiders, national leaders, could interfere to change that understanding, is mind-boggling. That Blatter thinks there is corruption at the executive and ethics committee levels and yet accepted and relied upon their judgments from the Qatar award decision through the Garcia report dismissal fiasco, is beyond conceivable.
What seemed conceivable to Mersiades and Garcia was that the self-interests of individual FIFA officials were handsomely catered to by those who profited by the reciprocal treatment from FIFA, the organization those officials ran. And even now FIFA is not contemplating severing the ties that feed them. Why reform when the status quo is so profitable, was a refrain from the discussions about the Garcia report a couple of months back. Now that profitability is on the verge of being legitimized and institutionalized, again.
The list of candidates to run a new FIFA best exemplifies the depth of the corruption we are now beginning to fathom. Officially, we have seven presidential candidates to chose from. First, the banned head of UEFA, Michel Platini. Second is Sheikh Salman bin Abrahim Al-Kahlifa, head of the AFC, a member of the repressive Bahraini royal family, who stands accused of sending athletes to be tortured following the Arab Spring uprisings. Third, Tokyo Sexwale, a member of the South African 2010 World Cup bidding and organizing committees, both of which are currently accused of bribery in an investigation into how that country obtained the tourney. Fourth is the aptly named Jerome Champagne, the French diplomat whose 11-year stint at FIFA was curtailed by a forceful Platini. Champagne is said to be Blatter’s man, willing to step aside should the ex-president be exonerated of all charges.
Fifth is Gianni Infantino, UEFA’s secretary-general, and Platini’s alter ego, also willing to step down for his boss to take over should he be cleared. Sixth is Musa Hassan Bility, president of the Liberian Football Federation and of a large oil company. His major endorsement comes from the current CAF president Issa Hayatou, who is also under investigation for receiving bribes. Finally, we have Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein who ran against Blatter in May and garnered 73 of the 209 available votes. The Prince is not tainted with the same brush as many of his competitors, but most of those 73 votes came from UEFA who will have several home confederation candidates vying for the same votes.
Finally, to complete the tapestry, major sponsors Coca Cola, Visa and McDonalds are threatening to pull their tens of millions worth of threads—demanding reform at FIFA. Just where were these long time FIFA sponsors in 2010 or 2014? Earning hundreds of millions at South Africa’s and Brazil’s World Cups. So who has lined up to sponsor the 2018 and 2022 World Cups—Visa, Coca Cola, and McDonalds among many others.