The not-so-beautiful game

The FIFA scandal and its impact in North America

Graphic by Bram Keast.

The past week has been an eye-opening one for the world of soccer. Recent events have finally forced all the shady business that FIFA has done over the years into the spotlight. It has been somewhat confusing to follow but here is a rundown of what has happened, as well as the impact on the game of soccer here in North America.

History of scandals within FIFA

FIFA has come under fire with various allegations, including taking bribes for previous World Cups, particularly the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

At the end of May, the FBI and IRS indicted 14 FIFA officials for wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering. Seven of those 14 were arrested two days before the FIFA presidential election was to take place in Zürich. Chuck Blazer, a former FIFA executive, has admitted to taking bribes for the 1998 and 2010 World Cups. Blazer was heavily involved in CONCACAF, the governing body of North American and Caribbean soccer.

Blazer also admitted to corruption involving the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

“Beginning in or about 1993 and continuing through the early 2000s, I and others agreed to accept bribes and kickbacks in conjunction with the broadcast and other rights to the 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2003 Gold Cups,” said Blazer in an article for ESPN FC.

After the arrests, Corriere dello Sport – Stadio, an Italian newspaper, claimed that there was match-fixing going on in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The FBI is also investigating the most recent World Cup in Brazil last year. The recent FIFA arrests of the 14 officials allegedly involve US$150 million in briberies.

Other controversies

Another big talking point in all this is the 2022 World Cup, set to be played in Qatar. It is going to occur in the winter months due to the extreme heat of the Qatari summers. That is a decision has enraged many European associations because it would take place in the heart of the European club season.

Another issue with the 2022 World Cup is the migrant workers and the treatment of those workers. They have been forced to stay within the country, working for poor wages. Most workers have been outright denied any of their documents, leaving them trapped.

Change of location for 2022 World Cup?

With former FIFA president Sepp Blatter now gone, the bidding process can be re-evaluated and Qatar might have its World Cup stripped, which would most likely be a good thing for soccer, and more importantly, the migrant workers in Qatar.

There has been talk of having the 2022 World Cup in the U.S. There are many reasons as to why the Americans should get to host the World Cup. First, it would allow them to grow the game even more in the American market and be a massive boost to their domestic league, the MLS.

The U.S. also has the infrastructure in place with many NFL stadiums and bigger soccer stadiums throughout the country. They hosted the 1994 World Cup and set records in attendance. Those records have since been broken, but it proved that the U.S. can appreciate the beautiful game.

The only problem with the U.S. getting the 2022 event would be that Canada would have to wait. Canada is the only confirmed bid for the 2026 World Cup, and while there is plenty of time for other host nations to make bids, as of right now, Canada is the front-runner.

With Canada hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup this year, it might prove as a testing ground for the Great White North to have the biggest event in sports grace our soil.

If the U.S. does receive the rights to hold the 2022 World Cup however, Canada would not be able to host it in 2026, as FIFA does not allow the World Cup to be hosted in the same continent two years in a row.

FIFA moving in right direction?

Sepp Blatter was FIFA’s president since 1998, but recently stepped down, only days after winning his most recent re-election bid. In his resignation speech, he said, “It is my deep care for FIFA and its interests, which I hold very dear, that has led me to take this decision.” This evasive statement leaves the public with more questions than answers in regards to Blatter’s sudden decision.

Known as the most powerful man in sports, Blatter has been a very controversial president. He was accused of financial mismanagement in a report saying that FIFA lost US$100 million under his tenure.
What does this mean for FIFA? It should be a wake up call. The governing body of the world’s most popular sport should not be seen as corrupt.

This hurts FIFA in its attempt to grow the sport here in North America. The average North American typically doesn’t follow soccer, due to higher levels of interest in the more familiar sports of hockey or football. With these recent events highlighting the level of corruption in FIFA, individuals have an even bigger reason to not follow the sport.

With Blatter’s resignation hopefully FIFA can start moving in the right direction and doing what is right for the game of soccer. FIFA has a long road ahead of it, but under a better leader, it can right the ship and gain some respect.

With the Women’s World Cup now underway, I hope that we can forget about these allegations and arrests for a while and focus on the World Cup here in Canada.

1 Comment on "The not-so-beautiful game"

  1. Solid article. Came for the soccer commentary, stayed for the solid sports reporting.

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