Wednesday’s arrest and indictment of nine FIFA official on corruption charges shocked the sports world—but not because everybody thought soccer’s international governing body was so pure and innocent. FIFA scandals involving allegations of bribery and racketeering have been plaguing the beautiful game for decades. What was shocking about Wednesday’s turn of events was that, finally, somebody was actually doing something about it.
Today, for those wondering just how deep this plutocratic rabbit hole of corruption goes, we’re going to take a look at the 10 biggest FIFA scandals to occur under the reign of current president Sepp Blatter.
From the looks of it, some if not most of these scandals are part of the ongoing criminal investigations in the United States and Switzerland. So who know? In the coming weeks and months even more damning evidence may come to light.
Let's start things off like an 11th grade term paper, shall we?
Webster's Dictionary defines "scandal" as "an occurrence in which people are shocked and upset because of behavior that is morally or legally wrong." By that definition, yes, I think we can call the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil scandalous. There were certainly a lot of locals who were "shocked and upset" by the fact that the government spent $11 billion building stadiums that nobody will use (like the one in the middle of the Amazon, which is hardly being used now and is practically bankrupting the State of Pernambuco) instead of things like schools and hospitals.
Of course, a lot of Brazilians were against hosting the World Cup to begin with, seeing as how FIFA requires all host countries give them and their sponsors a "comprehensive tax exemption." That means the governments don't make any money in exchange for building all those pretty stadiums. And it's why the New York Times accused FIFA of "running a kind of strip-mining operation, removing with its corporate partners much of the profit and leaving the host countries with stadiums that are seldom used."
Dishonorable Mention: Plundering of Brazil
Meet Jack Warner. He's the former head of CONCACAF and a former member of FIFA's executive committee, and you'll be seeing him a lot on this list.
The first FIFA scandal involving Warner? A good old-fashioned ticket scam.
When his home country of Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, a Trinidadian travel agency owned by Warner and run by his son bought up many of the tickets intended for Trinidadians and sold them in travel packages at insane markups.
All told, the Warners are believed to have profited by at least $1 million. However, FIFA's investigation placed the blame on Warner's son and fined him $1 million, though of course FIFA had no way of enforcing the penalty and the best guess is that he paid about a quarter of that.
Meanwhile, no action was taken against Jack Warner himself. Which was pretty convenient. Wink wink.
9. Trinidadian Ticket Scam
In May 2010, a referee named Ibrahim Chaibou walked into a South Afridan bank and desposted about $100,000 worth of cash. Where did he (allegedly) get that money? From a notorious Singaporean match-fixing syndicate that paid him to alter the outcome of several World Cup tuneup matches.
Obviously, this was a huge scandal that called into question the legitimacy of the 2010 World Cup, and you can read all about it in the New York Times. They pretty much got to the bottom of everything.
But what about FIFA? Did they investigate the match-fixing scandal? Sure they did. Unfortunately, their investigation didn't include actually interviewing anyone involved, including Chaibou. And even though FIFA eventually concluded that South African soccer officials were probably involved (which they were), FIFA didn't name names or hand down any punishments.
So in other words, FIFA was either complicit in the match-fixing or they were incompetent in investigating it. Or possibly both.
8. Match-Fixing Indifference
In 1998, Joao Havelange stepped down as president of FIFA after 24 years, and Sepp Blatter, Havelange's top administrator, decided to run as his replacement.
People that knew Havelange was a little shady with FIFA's finances, so they assumed his #1 guy was shady too. That's why Blatter's opponent in the 1998 election, FIFA vice president Lennart Johansson, proposed that every member of FIFA's executive committee be "monitored" (i.e. tailed) in the lead-up to voting to ensure that votes were not bought.
Unfortunately, Johansson's motion for special electoral procedures did not pass. So in Paris on the eve of the vote, Qatar's Mohammed bin Hammam, one of Blatter's biggest supporters, was seen handing out enveloped stuffed with cash to various FIFA executives.
Not surprisingly, Blatter won the election and then went on to become the most powerful man in sports. But of course, Soccer's Teflon Don denies that he ever paid anybody to vote for him.
"I will maintain that I was not there," he explained in 2011, "so it couldn't be me."
7. 1998 Election for FIFA President
In fairness to South Africa, it seems highly likely that every World Cup since 1998 has been bought. However, it just so happens that, thanks to Wednesday's arrest and indictment of Jack Warner—yes, him again—we know a lot more about how South Africa's World Cup was bought than we know about any other.
It all started with the bidding process for the 2006 World Cup. South Africa was in the running for that one first, and Warner apparently sent a relative to Paris to pick up a briefcase filled with cash, which was supposed to buy his vote.
Unfortunately, South Africa didn't get the 2006 World Cup. But they tried again for 2010, and this time they really pulled out all the stops, offeringWarner $10 million for his vote and those of two others.
Warner delivered the votes, South African got the World Cup, and Warner got his $10 million...and now probably a trip to prison.
6. South Africa Buys the World Cup
We've already discussed how FIFA makes host countries make extreme financial sacrifices for the supposed privilege of hosting a World Cup. But did you know FIFA also requires countries with serious crime problems to sacrifice justice as well?
Well they do. One of the conditions of South Africa getting the 2010 World Cup was the establishment of 56 so-called "World Cup Courts," the purpose of which was cracking down on crime and making visitors feel safe.
How did they do this? By expediting the trial and sentences processes. And by "expediting" I mean people who were arrested on Wednesday were tried on Thursday and began serving prison sentences on Friday.
Now, I'm not trying to defend criminals here. The most famous case to come before the World Cup Courts in South Africa involved the armed robbery of a photo journalist in his hotel room, and the perpetrators definitely deserved their 15-year prison sentences.
But the whole legal process too only three days! That's not justice. It's a public relations stunt. And it's a sham.
5. World Cup Courts
Technically this FIFA scandal didn't occur during the Sepp Blatter era. But Blatter was a FIFA executive at the time, and he helped cover it up when he took office. So I'm going to make an exception.
In 2001, Swiss sports marketing firm International Sports and Liesure, or ISL, collapsed. Why? Because for years they were paying exorbitant bribes to FIFA and International Olympic Committee officials in exchange for marketing and media rights. And one of those people was Joao Havelenge, who was president of FIFA from 1974 to 1998.
A 2012 investigation revealed that, between 1992 and 2000, Havelenge and his ex son-in-law, Ricardo Teixeira (picutred above), were paid between $22 and $40 million.
After taking office, Blatter tried to cover up his old boss's misdeads and actually got caught. However, FIFA's ethics committee decided to call it a "clumsy" handling of the situation rather than a criminal or ethical violation.
4. Joao Havelange-ISL Bribery Scandal
Remember when I said Mohammed bin Hammam was a big supporter of Sepp Blatter in 1998 and was allegedly handing out cash-stuffed envelopes to voters before the 1998 FIFA presidential election? Well, things changed over the next 13 years.
Specifically, Hammam, who was president of the Asian Football Confederation, got tired of waiting around for Blatter so he could take over FIFA. So in 2011, after pulling off a huge upset and securing the World Cup for his native Qatar in 2022, Hammam decided to run against Blatter for president.
Of course, the way you win FIFA elections is by bribing people, so Hammam paid our old pal Jack Warner $360,000 to set up a meeting with executives from CONCACAF. And at that meeting, Warner told each person in attendance to go ahead and pick up their "gifts" on their way out—envelopes stuffed with $40,000 in cash.
Unfortunateley, one of the people in attendance ratted Warner and Hammam out. Hammam was subsequently banned from FIFA for life, while Warner resigned from CONCACAF and FIFA.
Resigning wasn't such a bad thing for Warner, though, because upon his resignation FIFA immediately ceased its ethics investigation considered the issue closed.
Not a bad deal, huh?
3. 2011 Election for FIFA President
From the start, nobody believed Qatar could have been awarded the World Cup without money exchanging hands. It's too damn hot in Qatar, and the human rights are too damn non-existent. (More on that in a moment.) The question was how did it all go down?
In March 2014, a whisle-blower told the Sunday Times that several African officials were paid $1.5 million in exchange for their votes, though she later retracted the accusation. However, around the same time it was discovered independently that the Qatari bid committee paid (who else?) Jack Warner $2 million. Then in June 2014, the Sunday Times obtained various documents proving bin Hammam himself forked over $5 million in bribes.
Of course, all this was probably in the report written by former U.S. attorney Michael Garcia and submitted to FIFA in September 2014. However, FIFA refused to make the report public, saying only that it contained "minor" violations that did nothing to call into question the integrity of the vote...which led Garcia to vehemently disagree and quit his job.
But hey, don't worry Qatar. Even in the wake of the recent arrests, FIFA says the 2022 World Cup is still yours!
2. The Qatar Bribery Scandal
The good news about the Qatar bribery scandal? It's absolutely nothing compared to the inhumane work conditions of the migrant workers who are currently building their World Cup stadiums. In fact, things are so bad there that some are calling it modern day slavery.
The living quarters for migrant workers are filthy, companies take away their passports so they can't leave the country, and they often don't get paid for months at a time. Oh, and somebody dies about every 90 seconds.
Seriously. Every 90 seconds.
So far there have been 1200 construction deaths in Qatar. That's compared to one death ahead of the London Olympics, one ahead of the Vancouver Olympics, two ahead of the South Africa World Cup, and ten ahead of the Brazil World Cup.
In short, the death-toll is staggering. And neither FIFA nor their sponsors (like Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, and McDonalds) care so long as they get paid.
Read more about this sad situation here, here, and here.
1. Modern Slavery in Qatar
bribery, corruption, FIFA, FIFA scandal, Sepp Blatter, Soccer,