In the history of world soccer, the U.S. has not made such an impact on the field as they have off of it. A rapidly growing market, broadcasting, and sponsorships dollars all contribute greatly to the world’s game. In the past three weeks the U.S. has contributed largely to understanding the legality of FIFA’s financial operations, or lack thereof. FIFA, the international governing body of all things soccer, are beginning to answer to the long rumored allegations of corruption within the organization.
United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch is leading the charge against FIFA executives who have gotten their hands dirty, using their positions of power to accept bribes for personal gain. Reports throughout the media have stated that the FIFA officials that have been arrested are cooperating with law enforcement, giving information along with hard evidence that could implicate others, including the President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, whose resignation last week indicates his fear that accepting another term as president would tarnish his legacy and only open up U.S. prosecutors to link corruption up the chain of command to land on his desk.
History has proven that bringing foreign criminals to trial in the United States is difficult, and in some cases impossible. Many have questioned how Lynch has been able to bring these executives to justice using U.S law. The New York Times has noted that the U.S. is not overstepping its boundaries in bringing charges against FIFA officials. Because FIFA officials have used bank accounts in the United States to bribe and launder money, the U.S. is able to arrest them outside of U.S. jurisdiction and extradite them on the premise that if affects foreign commerce.
This method of dealing with criminals internationally began with U.S. laws created to combat terrorism, following the events of September 11, 2001. The loose interpretation of these laws has put FIFA in panic mode, focusing on damage control to preserve its hold on international soccer.
But the impact of these alleged crimes committed in back rooms by an elite group of businessmen (and women perhaps) goes far beyond the game of soccer. As globalization continues to make the world smaller, FIFA’s actions become more important. Soccer has transcended its former boundaries of simplicity and only wins and losses on the field.
News broke on June 9th that former FIFA Executive Committee Member from Trinidad and Tobago, Jack Warner, diverted close to $750,000 of donations from fellow Football Associations to his private bank account. The donations were designed to be relief funds for victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
FIFA preaches that it is an organization that brings people together, solves world problems, and builds communities and infrastructure to developing nations. FIFA exerts a good amount of influence throughout the world. In the case of Haiti, their influence has been a matter of life and death.
A non-profit organization should be held to higher standards, which is why the public’s response to these charges has been met with little skepticism over how the U.S. was able to arrest international officials.
There is an incredible amount of money invested in FIFA, especially the FIFA World Cups, the world’s largest sporting event. Sponsors and broadcasting companies pay by the million to have their name associated with the world’s largest sporting event.
With so much money invested in the sport since Blatter’s first term as FIFA President, there should be no surprise that a culture of corruption has been fostered in the modern game. As Blatter’s 17-year reign as FIFA President comes to an end, there is no promise that corruption will be completely rooted out going forward.
Accountability is paramount in any organization, and the United States is using federal law to bring accountability to the keepers of the world’s game. The accusations will continue and more justice will be served through the U.S. courts, whether FIFA likes it or not, because this thing is just getting started.