The Federation International Football Association (FIFA) is the governing body of soccer, but its governing style more closely resembles that of a mob family or drug cartel than anything even remotely close to a responsible and ethical regulatory bureaucracy.
Early Wednesday morning, unannounced Swiss authorities arrested several top FIFA officials at Zurich’s Baur au Lac Hotel, a posh five-star resort that comes with $4,000-a-night suite rates and the location for the soccer organization’s annual meeting.
Seven officials were arrested on suspicion of racketeering, money laundering, wire fraud, and taking bribes. In all, 14 persons are named in the Department of Justice’s indictment, nine FIFA officials and five sports-marketing executives.
“The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” Loretta Lynch, attorney general said. “It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”
The actions this week in Switzerland are the result of a broad investigation by the Justice Department, FBI, and IRS, and Lynch expressed her gratitude to the Swiss for apprehending the accused.
Now Lynch is planning on extraditing the 14 individuals to the United States to face accusations that they made bribes on US soil and used American banks to commit fraud.
FIFA executives are accused of taking bribes to the tune of more than $150 million. “In short, these individuals, through these organizations, engaged in bribery to decide who would televise games, where the games would be held and who would run the organization overseeing organized soccer worldwide,” Lynch told reporters.
Somewhat surprising to many, FIFA President Sepp Blatter wasn’t named or arrested.
In a press release issued Wednesday, Blatter says, “We will continue to work with the relevant authorities and we will work vigorously within FIFA in order to root out any misconduct, to regain your trust and ensure that football worldwide is free from wrongdoing.”
According to Lynch and Richard Weber, head of the IRS Criminal Investigation division, the investigation is still ongoing and more persons could be charged. “This really is the World Cup of fraud, and today we are issuing FIFA a red card,” Weber said pointedly.
Cristiano Ronaldo Joins PokerStars
In more appealing soccer news, Cristiano Ronaldo, the sport’s biggest superstar today, has signed-on to become a brand ambassador with PokerStars, the world’s largest online network.
“I love the game, and I’ve always loved the challenge of beating my opponents one-on-one. By joining the world’s biggest poker site, I can test my skills against the game’s best players and become one of them,” Ronaldo says.
Ronaldo joins another Ronaldo, 38-year-old Luis Nazario de Lima, the second all-time World Cup goal scorer with 15 goals. Cristiano has scored one goal in each of his three World Cup appearances.
You Say Football, I Say Soccer
Before FIFA’s sleeping beauties were raided this week, the most pressing issue in the sport was whether it’s called football or soccer.
Of course, in the United States the game is commonly referred to as soccer, as football is the gridiron version.
But outside of the states, soccer is almost universally called football, and considering soccer features a ball played with the foot, while American football is a game primarily played with the hands, it’s a tough sell arguing soccer is football. Get it?