Is FIFA a victim of its own success?

Despite comfortably garnering 133 votes against his opponent’s 73 votes in Geneva last week, Mr Sepp Blatter, FIFA president has not been spared the wrath of some sections of the Western media which are fiercely campaigning for his ouster even before FIFA officials indicted for corruption have appeared in court and been convicted.


What is strange in the reporting of the alleged corruption are the double standards employed by the Western media. For example, the same Western media that pleaded the legal premise of “innocent until proven guilty” ahead of the phone hacking trials in Britain, has suddenly ‘tried and found FIFA president Mr Blatter guilty’ even though he has not even been indicted let alone appeared in court nor been found guilty for the alleged corruption.

In an article underscoring the legal premise of “innocent until proven guilty”, entitled ‘Phone Hacking: can these journalists really get a fair trial,’ The Telegraph, 8 March 2012, Stephen Parkinson, solicitor for Rebekah Brooks argued that the ‘flaws in the design of the Levison Inquiry have undermined the judicial process’. One of his major concerns was the “huge, dramatic and sensational” media publicity. In the end his client was acquitted after a lengthy trial.

One would want to believe that Mr Sepp Blatter, apart from his belief in God also has access to sound legal advice, otherwise he would have chickened out in the face of a fierce media frenzy that is devoid of any sound understanding of legal procedure.

Furthermore, it’s amazing that these uncritical, otherwise biased sections of the Western media have jumped to conclusions and implicated Mr Blatter in offences allegedly committed since the 1990s without asking what the law enforcement authorities were waiting for all this time until the eve of FIFA elections last week if they had evidence of wrongdoing.

There is a strong suspicion that this Western media hype against Mr Blatter is recrimination for FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 and 2022 FIFA world cups to Qatar and Russia, respectively. But even then, if it’s true that the losing bids bottled up their frustration until last week for something that was decided in 2009 remains mysterious as if there were no appeal procedures.

The bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups began officially in March 2009 and by the time of the decision, bids for the 2018 World Cup included England, Russia, a joint bid from Belgium and Netherlands, and a joint bid from Portugal and Spain.

Bids for the 2022 World Cup came from Australia, Japan, Qatar, South Korea and the United States. Reports say, Indonesia’s bid was disqualified due to lack of governmental support while Mexico withdrew its bid for financial reasons. So the question is why did they remain quiet until now? If they had evidence of malpractices, why did they withhold it until last week?

There is also a school of thought that FIFA or Mr Blatter is a victim of his own success, especially after getting a resounding vote of confidence from the countries of the South in the recent elections. For example during the period 1999-2012, FIFA’s development programme featured financial assistance programme in Africa to the benefit of all 209 member associations and the 6 confederations (See FIFA Development Activities in Africa, 1999-2012).

According to FIFA, with 54 members, the African continent is with Europe the largest beneficiary of this programme giving the examples that (a) US$250,000 for each member association per year; (b) US$214 900 000 for the member associations and US$45 000 000 for CAF since 1999; (c) additional contribution in 2010/2011 due to the good financial results of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa (US$550,000 for the Men’s Associations (Mas), and US$5 000 000 for the confederation); (d) A total of US$259 900 000 invested by FIFA in African Football since 1999.

What the money was intended for includes youth football and grassroots development; Men’s competitions and championships (e.g. national and international competitions); Women’s football development; technical development (e.g. education programmes); refereeing; sports medicine and Futsa/beach soccer.

Any discrepancies in the use of FIFA funding should have been known by now from audit reports if everyone was doing his work properly. Otherwise, if law enforcement authorities had evidence of wrongdoing the 1990s, why did they wait until the FIFA elections last week?

Similarly, are some sections of the Western media not discrediting themselves by waging what looks like a relentless and “hateful” campaign against Mr Blatter without evidence contrary to the legal premise of “innocent until proven guilty”?

Clifford is a PhD Candidate Social Sciences at London South Bank University, [email protected]; [email protected]

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