Commentary

Maitre Carrard and the FIFA scandal involving not so few rogues

By Paul Kennedy
(@pkedit)

Former IOC director general Francois Carrard's comments about American soccer -- "an ethnic sport for girls in schools" -- exposed his ignorance and forced FIFA to distance itself from the remarks, suggesting via a spokeswoman on Thursday that they were his "personal views" and "do not reflect the views or position of FIFA."

But the damage had been done. Carrard's remarks shattered the credibility of the FIFA reform committee FIFA president Sepp Blatter appointed his Swiss colleague to head as he parroted Blatter's counterattack.

Blatter has been going on for weeks now complaining about how he and his FIFA have been treated in light of the indictment of 14 FIFA officials and sports marketing executives that resulted in his decision to step aside as FIFA president next year. His two themes:

-- U.S. authorities have it in for him and FIFA.
-- Any corruption that took place is not a FIFA problem but a matter undertaken at the confederation level over which he has no control.

More than anyone else -- more than the British media before them -- Blatter despises the Feds for ruining his coronation when they had Swiss police raid the five-star Zurich hotel Baur au Lac -- the preferred hotel for FIFA VIPs -- and arrest seven FIFA officials on corruption charges two days before his election for a fifth term as FIFA president.

"It doesn’t smell right," Blatter said, later demanding an explanation as to why three New York Times reporters just happened to be in the lobby of the Baur au Lac hotel at 6 o'clock in the morning when Swiss police went to the lobby desk and asked for the room numbers of the seven men they would arrest. "There should be an investigation as to why this happened two days before the Congress," Blatter told the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant recently.

What was so terribly wrong about Carrard's comments about American soccer was not just the remarks themselves. FIFA via its spokeswoman disowned them: "The growth of football and the increased participation levels in the U.S. have been tremendous and demonstrate the nation's passion for the game." What was so unsettling was the context in which he made them.

He said he could understand the Federal investigation that exposed corruption around the awarding of the 2000 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City because it took place on American soil, "in the heart of Utah, among the Mormons" -- a mess, it should be noted, Carrard helped clean up -- but there was no explanation for the Feds going after "only a few rogues" operating in a sport that Americans didn't care about -- "an ethnic sport for girls in schools" -- other than they somehow had it in for FIFA.

Fourteen years removed from his position as IOC director general when it was his job to know everything about every sport in the IOC family, Carrard could be excused if he was clueless about the state of American soccer in 2015. But at 77, he is still a practicing attorney -- a partner in Lausanne-based Carrard & Associés  -- so you'd think he'd respect the seriousness of the charges.

Blatter has dismissed the schemes outlined in the Federal indictments as activities over which he had no control. Nothing gets his blood boiling more than U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch's press conference at which she portrayed FIFA as an enterprise that resembled the mafia.

FIFA and the mafia? On an afternoon dominated by grand-standing, July's Senate consumer protection subcommittee hearing into the bribery scandals will be remembered for one comment. Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal suggesting, like Lynch had, that the indictments revealed a mafia-style crime syndicate in charge of the sport. "I only hesitate to use that term," he famously said, "because it is almost insulting to the mafia. The mafia would never have been so blatant, overt and arrogant in its corruption."

The 14 FIFA officials and sports marketing executives indicted are accused of taking or planning to take more than $150 million in bribes, $110 million related to the Copa America alone. The bribes in the Carrard-era Salt Lake City scandal -- tuition assistance and jobs for the children of a handful of IOC members, payment of medical bills -- were peanuts by comparison.

It's hard to believe that corruption in international soccer was, to use Carrard's words, reduced to "only a few rogues." "The Ugly Game," the book by investigative reporters Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert into Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid, exposed widespread corruption in Africa and Asia with local federation officials enthusiastically giving out the routing number and account number of their personal bank accounts to Qatari wheeler-dealer and former Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam for hand-outs. The only reason they have escaped the Feds, it would seem, is that they were not so "blatant, overt and arrogant," as Blumenthal described the FIFA 14, or so stupid as to use U.S. banks so they might get caught and the Feds would have jurisdiction to indict them.

Word came Wednesday from new Conmebol president Juan Angel Napout -- his two predecessors were both indicted and are fighting extradition to the United States -- that the 2016 Copa Centenario, scheduled to take place in the United States, might not happen or if it does it might not take place in the United States. Since May, city contracts have been sitting on the desk of U.S. Soccer chief commercial officer Jay Berhalter ready to be executed. Fans have been signing up to receive ticket information. All for a tournament that was a massive bribery scheme.

If you've been following United States v. Jeffrey Webb, et al., a must-read is The FIFA Indictment Blog, edited by Khaldoun Shobaki, who describes himself as a California white collar criminal defense attorney and fan of the beautiful game, in particular the U.S. men's national team and Arsenal. What Shobaki does so well is he goes through the public filings and explains, in layman's terms, what the cases against the FIFA 14 -- and the four who pleaded guilty -- are all about.

The case against Jack Warner's son, Daryll Warner? Straight out of "The Wire" -- my analogy -- and Lester Freeman's takedown of Clay Davis, building an "easy mortgage fraud charge." Shobaki describes Daryll Warner and brother Daryan as being low-hanging fruit. And the ring-leader of the whole mess, Traffic president Jose Hawilla? Again, a favorite Lester Freeman line, "follow the money."

In his latest posting, Shobaki shows off his investigative skills to expose the audacity of Hawilla and his co-conspirators. Shobaki had a colleague obtain for him copies of unsealed court documents in a 2011 civil complaint filed by Traffic against Conmebol and others in Florida's Miami-Dade County, accusing Conmebol of selling television rights to the Copa America that it had already sold to Traffic to competing sports marketing agencies.

As Skobaki notes, "If the Traffic Group contracts were indeed procured through bribery, it is difficult to overstate the chutzpah required to turn around and sue to enforce" the contract it had with Conmebol. He describes the Conmebol move as a power play to benefit from the escalating fees broadcasters were paying for television rights and to "increase their bribe income" by creating competition to Traffic.

It resulted in Traffic and two competing agencies settling in 2013 and forming a new entity, Datisa, which was awarded a new Copa America contract to the tune of $317.5 million. It covered the 2015, 2019 and 2023 tournaments with the 2016 Copa Centenario thrown in as a bonus. As for bribe income, the agreement called for $110 million to be divided among Conmebol officials and the heads of the 10 South American federations, based of their size and importance.

So Maître Carrard, just a small case involving "only a few rogues," huh?

9 comments about "Maitre Carrard and the FIFA scandal involving not so few rogues".
  1. An Animus, August 28, 2015 at 12:02 a.m.

    Oh to be old, privileged and oblivious...................

  2. Ric Fonseca, August 28, 2015 at 2:33 a.m.

    Right, I can take the being old, maybe privileged, but to be oblivious, is akin to have been breathing the rareified air of the Swiss Alps.

  3. Thom Meredith, August 28, 2015 at 9:36 a.m.

    Soccer America Readers:

    As I just wrote to Paul Kennedy privately a few minutes ago in response to his excellent column:
    -----
    PK

    Another GREAT one from you...as I told the president of a national soccer business yesterday IF I was retired and had alot of free time I'd organize a post office box stuffing letter writing and server crashing email response addressed directly to Mr. Carrard (IF I knew his direct postal address and/or his personal email address) from what would be (hundreds of) thousands of Americans just to embarras another STUPID European who does not understand that 1) soccer is a billion dollar industry here in the US thank you and 2) IF you do not know that the game of soccer is FIRMLY imbedded today as a vibrant part of the fabric of every day life for millions of American residents of ALL ages AND for both seses then open your mouth and insert your foot as Mr. Carrard has surely done at your own peril.

    Thom Meredith

  4. Santiago 1314 replied, August 28, 2015 at 11:53 a.m.

    Right on, mi Amigo Thom...Let's pull a Trump and give out his Cell phone number also... Someone out there must have it.!!!... Post it here, along with his email...

  5. Ric Fonseca, August 28, 2015 at 3:07 p.m.

    OK, Santiago, go for it! Get the Chump Trompudo's info posted, and I'll be one of the first to write to el pendejo Carrard's and tell him a thing or two en ingles, castellano, frances, aleman, chino, o lo que pueda leer.

  6. Ric Fonseca, August 28, 2015 at 3:08 p.m.

    > Tom Meredith, long time since we've seen each other! Excellent note to Paul Kennedy, and like many others, couldn't agree more!!!

  7. John DiFiore, August 28, 2015 at 8:56 p.m.

    FIFA might want to watch their step when trash talking the U.S. Have these Euro-nerds not read up on our history? We are less than 250 years old and have managed to won the world and everything in it...LEGALLY. FIFA will be no exception... Friggin DIRTY thieves..

  8. John DiFiore, August 28, 2015 at 8:57 p.m.

    We ought to send one of our USWNT players over (any one of them BTW) and teach this twit (carrard) some manners and respect for American Women!!!

  9. Mark Landefeld, August 29, 2015 at 12:50 a.m.

    BTW .... anybody mention to Carrard the lack of relevancy the Swiss have in the modern game ... with the possible exception of harboring fugitives ... and ISL ... (and is there a difference?)

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