Commentary

Will FIFA crater like Arthur Andersen?

In an attempt to get ahead of the story, Michel Platini's lawyer, Thibaud d’Alès, said the investigatory arm of FIFA's ethics committee has recommended a lifetime ban for his client, the suspended UEFA president, and the Guardian reported suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter should receive the same sanction in connection with the $2 million payment made to Platini in 2011 for work done years ago.

The verbal agreement between Blatter and Platini was legal under Swiss law, though Platini, the favorite to succeed Blatter until he ran into his own legal troubles, only had five years to enforce the contract. What clouds the payment -- made shortly before Blatter was re-elected FIFA president in 2011 -- is that it was never accounted for on FIFA's books. The charges against Blatter and Platini are mismanagement, conflict of interest, false accounting and non-cooperation with the ethics committee.

D’Alès, Platini's attorney, told L'Equipe a lifetime ban was “pure scandal’’ and “disproportionate,” though other FIFA officials have received lifetime bans, notably American Chuck Blazer and Trinidadian Jack Warner. On appeal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld a lifetime ban for corruption, against Sri Lankan Vernon Manilal Fernando, a close associate of Qatari Bin Hammam, whose bid to challenge Blatter in 2011 was derailed by his own ban on corruption charges.

The pushback from Blatter since the arrest of seven FIFA officials in May at the the Baur au Lac Hotel in Zurich and Platini takes attention away from a more pressing issue: FIFA can't sign new sponsors, revenues are suffering and cuts will have to be made. “It is not a forgone conclusion that the company [FIFA] will survive,” a senior person close to FIFA told the Financial Times. “It is up in the air.”

An air of unreality hangs over FIFA as lawyers work to keep the world governing body afloat. The ongoing investigations by U.S. and Swiss investigators are expected to reveal many more cases of corruption. As the FT was told, some FIFA bosses still “think this will go away. Most of the executive committee are in denial. Only a small group understands."

The FT noted the only thing FIFA may have going for it is the sympathy of Federal prosecutors, who are reluctant to break up FIFA like what happened to accounting firm of Arthur Andersen in the wake of the Enron scandal. Quinn Emanuel, the U.S. law firm working with FIFA, has portrayed its client as the victim of corruption. Blatter talks a good game, claiming FIFA is a victim of forces outside its control, but his actions suggest otherwise.

One expert told the FT that FIFA's future was dependent on maintaining "victim status," which means it must act like a victim. "What does a victim do? Someone who is a victim wants to find out what happened and get justice," he said. "Someone who is not really a victim looks the other way.”

Or as Platini's lawyer has been doing, blaming the ethics committee tasked with dealing with the mess.
6 comments about "Will FIFA crater like Arthur Andersen?".
  1. Scot Sutherland, November 25, 2015 at 1:25 a.m.

    I am all for letting the whole thing crater. It will be interesting to see what would come out of the aftermath. Hopefully, the regional organizing bodies will do something that makes sense. The US might even be able to get a new president of US Soccer and a good USMNT coach. Wait...the US is prosecuting the case... Never mind... Carry on...

  2. Kenneth Gough, November 25, 2015 at 9:17 a.m.

    Time for the Swiss authorities to put FIFA into receivership and appoint a well-respected businessman to straighten out its operations while the prosecutors clean up the criminal mess.

  3. Joey Tremone, November 25, 2015 at 10:46 a.m.

    The risk is that if FIFA crumbles, the rich clubs will take control of the sport and bend it to their own interests, away from those of the national teams.

  4. Margaret Manning, November 25, 2015 at 11:23 a.m.

    Precisely. Receivership, sweep all exec functions clean, and start again with a new electoral system, preferably not the one-country, one vote scheme.

  5. Ric Fonseca, November 25, 2015 at 3:47 p.m.

    Receivership??? A "well respected businessman???" (Didn't know there are any left!) Surely you jest, right? If this were to happen, what of the next two WC - ya know the Russian and Qtari??? Who get one, us and Sunil Gulati - ooops wait, isn't he also on the FIFA Exec Committee?
    I know, take it up before the UN and the Security Council, ooops, no, won't work either 'cause the permanent member including Russia, China and the US can veto antyhing that may go against it (o.e. Putin's Russia) Oh well, let the courts, the Swiss and USofA go for the jugular!!! Just sayin'

  6. beautiful game, November 27, 2015 at 10:38 p.m.

    This FIFA caper couldn't come at a better time. It's a moment FIFA needs to seize in order to reinvent itself. The laws of the game need to be tweaked to make the game more vibrant. There is plenty of room to unload the games chicanery by players, coaches, and referees. Making the rules fair and simple is not enough unless they are enforced.

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