Say what you will about soccer being the most popular sport in the world, but you don’t need to be an aficionado to comprehend the problems with Sepp Blatter being re-elected term as president of FIFA.
Blatter was granted a fifth term Friday just days after nine FIFA officials and five marketing executives were arrested on corruption charges in the biggest scandal in soccer history. They were indicted amid allegations of wrongdoing that U.S. and Swiss prosecutors separately claim go back at least 24 years.
Two vice presidents of FIFA were among 14 people arrested and accused of taking bribes, some in exchange for their votes deciding future World Cup sites. It’s going to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. In the latter, the World Cup needs to be moved to November because it’s too hot to play in the summer.
All along, many connected to the sport sensed foul play.
Blatter was not been charged and refused to step down. You can’t help but wonder if he’s the Teflon Don of soccer. FIFA is losing credibility by the day, especially after FIFA members granted Blatter another four years.
Meanwhile, stadiums are being built with cheap labor and terrible conditions that already have results in the deaths of workers who were desperate for money. Rather than ensure safe working conditions and fare wages, FIFA essentially turned its head and continued playing the game behind the game.
Blatter was on the offensive this week after the scandal broke. He blamed others for staining the organization, claiming he can’t watch over everyone and shouldn’t be held responsible for their behavior. His basic message: He’s one man among millions in an international multibillion-dollar enterprise.
Actually, he’s among the world’s most powerful sports figures. He’s an intelligent man who ushered FIFA through its most prosperous period and contributed to soccer becoming a global game. He understood the importance of television, which helped popularize the sport and turn the World Cup into a cash cow.
While true, he can’t have it both ways.
Blatter has been in office for 17 years. He knew, or should have known, about the corruption. He can’t plead ignorance about the behavior of executives working under him and still claim he’s a responsible leader. Otherwise, problems would have been solved before U.S. and Swiss investigators started sniffing around.
By re-electing him, FIFA’s member federations are further empowering a 79-year-old man who already has too much power. He should have been removed from office and replaced by someone who wasn’t embedded with the organization. It would have stopped questions about transparency. Instead, it seems soccer's recent problems are only beginning.