The embattled FIFA president Sepp Blatter is now under investigation by Swiss Authorities for a “disloyal payment” made to Michel Platini, the current head of the European soccer confederation and candidate for the FIFA presidency. Blatter also stands accused of signing contracts that the attorney general of Switzerland deems “unfavorable to FIFA.”
Blatter – whose long tenure as FIFA president is set to end in February – is no stranger to controversy. His scheduled resignation is the result of an ongoing corruption scandal. Over the last year, the organization’s secretive inner dealings have emerged from the shadows. A handful were extradited to the United States by Swiss authorities last May at the behest of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
One of the most disturbing aspects of FIFA’s troubles involves bribery accusations connected with Qatar’s receipt of the 2022 World Cup. Exploitative, lethal labor practices have painted a damning picture of corrupt FIFA officials. If the current death rates in the desert country continue, The Guardian projects that up to 4,000 migrants could perish by the completion of Qatar’s stadiums – a grotesque number that towers over workplace fatalities connected to other recent world sports events held in countries including Russia and China.
Qatari officials have allegedly lured migrant works from Southeast Asia with promises of high pay, only to confiscate migrants’ passports, charge exorbitant broker fees, and force laborers to work in scorching conditions without access to water. The slave-like conditions have drawn international condemnation, as well as increased scrutiny of FIFA’s potentially criminal administrative culture.
While he is yet to be charged, the Swiss investigation is the first instance in which government authorities have looked directly into Blatter’s affairs. The ongoing U.S. investigation, which involves a number of Blatter allies, does not include the FIFA president. The Swiss investigation mentions an alleged £1.3 million payment from Blatter to potential FIFA presidential candidate Platini, who has himself released a statement denying any wrongdoing. FIFA has announced that the organization’s lawyers will not assist in Blatter’s defense in the event of court proceedings.
The responsible course of action would be, of course, for Blatter to step down. He has dragged his feet, at first contending that he had no intention of leaving his post even in the wake of last May’s developments. He later announced that he would relinquish his position this February, perhaps in an effort to retain influence by guiding allies into top positions before his departure.
One thing is clear: the culture of FIFA’s administration is in dire need of an overhaul. Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, and an important cultural force for promoting life skills, cooperation, and discipline to children cross the globe. The game’s importance demands a well-run, socially oriented organization that commits more energy and resources to fostering the positives of the sport as opposed to defending the interests of corrupt and deceitful administrative leaders.