As you might have heard, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland on Friday announced that it is investigating FIFA president Sepp Blatter for alleged “criminal mismanagement and misappropriation.” The criminal proceedings relate to two transactions that the 78-year-old signed off on: one, the sale of 2014 World Cup rights to the Caribbean Football Union, which was previously headed by disgraced former CONCACAF president Jack Warner, at the absurdly deflated sum of $660,000; and two, the payment of $2 million in 2011 to current UEFA president and FIFA presidential hopeful Michel Platini for unknown services -- right around the time the Frenchman decided not to stand against Blatter for the FIFA presidency.
Well, folks, that announcement was nearly six hours ago now, but the band is still playing on: in other words, not only does Blatter maintain his innocence, he also remains FIFA president. Indeed, whereas most of the world’s politicians/public officials would have come clean or at least vacated their office by now, it seems FIFA’s top man wants to go down with his sinking ship.
As Off The Post’s Soccer America colleague Paul Kennedy points out, the biggest surprise is the implication that UEFA president Platini, many people’s favorite to succeed Blatter once he finally/presumably/(does it matter anymore?) steps down in February, could have been caught with his hand in the FIFA cookie jar, too.
What did the French (soccer) great allegedly do, exactly? Well, nothing, yet, but according to initial reports, FIFA paid Platini $2 million in 2011 for unspecified work he completed for FIFA between Jan 1999 and June 2002. Well, nine years and three World Cups -- during which time FIFA earned untold billions in revenue -- is an awfully long time to not get paid for services rendered, whatever they are. And, as we mentioned before, the timing is fishy, too, as Platini received the funds right around the time he decided not to run against Blatter in the 2011 FIFA presidential election.
The business with Jack Warner sounds equally absurd. Apparently, FIFA in 2005 sold the Caribbean TV rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups to the Warner-headed CFU for $600,000, a remarkably low figure for a region that boasts nearly 40 million people. In any event, Warner went on to sub-license these rights to a company he owned in the Cayman Islands, which then sold them for between $18 and $20 million.
As ESPN’s Gabriel Marcotti points out, “FIFA have very accurate metrics for how rights should be sold. If you just about give them away, it's suspicious.”
Indeed, all of this is suspicious enough that Blatter, who allegedly signed off on each of these deals, is under investigation. Lesser (read: greater) men would have left their post as FIFA president by now. In any event, whatever happens next is anybody’s guess, because it depends on how good the Swiss authorities’ information and access is. If Warner and former FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke, who was suspended indefinitely from FIFA last week, are the ones supplying the info, then chances are it’s pretty good.
If Blatter decides to finally bite the bullet and step down prior to the Feb election (or if head FIFA prosecutor Cornel Borbely suspends him), then Cameroon’s Issa Hayatou, head of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) becomes acting president. As Marcotti notes, Borbely also has the power to suspend Platini, who, if implicated, would be out of the running for the FIFA presidency, making Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan the likely frontrunner.It’s all happening and it’s all happening fast, leaving -- at the moment -- more questions than answers.