The FIFA scandal really is the gift that keeps on giving -- so much so, that perhaps we should refer to it as "The FIFA Unraveling,” because with each passing day, it’s looking more and more likely that 1) we’ve probably only just scratched the surface of the corruption inside this organization, and 2) FIFA really is unraveling.
Indeed, Friday saw the birth of the newest sub-scandal living inside the larger scandal category we’ll refer to henceforth as the World Cup “votes-for-bribes” program organized and underwritten by FIFA’s executive committee.
Early Friday, a report from German pub Spiegel added the 2006 World Cup in Germany to the list of paid-for World Cups -- this one purchased with bribes from the German soccer federation (DFB). Per the report, the late former head of Adidas, Robert Louis-Dreyfus, in 2000 secretly lent the DFB $7.6 million through a Swiss bank account that would help it pay off four FIFA ExCo members from Asia; their votes ultimately allowed Germany’s winning bid later that year to edge South Africa by 12 votes to 11.
Here’s how they did it: when Louis-Dreyfus asked for his money back in April 2005, the DFB transferred the $7.6 million into an account set up by FIFA in Geneva, Switzerland, saying the funds were to be used for an opening ceremony in Berlin’s Olympiastadion for the World Cup in 2006. However, the ceremony was canceled, with FIFA sending the full amount back into Louis-Dreyfus’ account rather than the DFB.
According to the report, revered former Germany captain and coach Franz Beckenbauer and current DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach were, at the very least, aware of the transaction, which is bad news for both of them. Of course, Beckenbauer and Niersbach would not comment on the report, while the DFB vigorously denies the allegations. For its part, FIFA said it would add this one to the pile of allegations that its (suddenly very busy) ethics committee is currently investigating. As yet, no criminal authority is officially investigating this one.
For those counting, of the seven World Cups that have been awarded since France 1998 (right around the time the Internet started reaching the greater public), just two (Korea/Japan 2002 and Brazil 2014) have thus far managed to escape public scrutiny with regard to their bidding processes. You might recall that back in June, former FIFA executive committee member-turned-FBI informant, Chuck Blazer, confessed to U.S. authorities that he was involved in bribes related to the awarding of France 1998 and South Africa 2010. We have gone over his testimony here. Of course, the entire FIFA scandal began even earlier, at the end of May, shortly after FIFA’s own unsatisfactory ruling on the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to Russia and Qatar, respectively. While FIFA is still looking into the matter, Swiss authorities launched their own, separate investigation announced at the time of the first round of FIFA indictments.
Meanwhile, Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s suspended-and-outgoing-one-way-or-another president, was also in the news Friday. Asked by Swiss TV station RROTV about the $2.1 million payment made to UEFA President Michel Platini in 2011 -- which the whole world knows was to keep the Frenchman from running against him for the presidency -- for unclear services rendered some nine years earlier, the Swiss said, "It was ... a gentleman's agreement, and that was followed through on."
Really? Who follows through with “a gentleman’s agreement” for $2 million dollars? Well, according to Platini’s lawyer, these two do, as there is no record of the agreement anywhere -- at least that was the lawyer’s answer following a meeting of UEFA’s 54 member associations on Thursday after he was asked about Swiss accounting practices, and the fact that under Swiss law outstanding payments must be made within five years. Well, since this was “a gentleman’s agreement,"perhaps that law doesn’t apply ...
Aside from sounding tired, out of touch, and out of options, Blatter has now most certainly rung the death knell for Platini’s presidential campaign. Regardless of whether or not the pair broke any actual laws, appearances matter, especially when you’re campaigning for any kind of presidency. Case in point: shortly after the UEFA meeting, the English FA suspended its support for the Frenchman; you can imagine that UEFA won’t be too far behind.