Join 3,497 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Sepp Bless the Rains Down in Africa
August 15, 2011 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Brian Phillips of The Run of Play (previously) examines FIFA's history of corruption from the birth of sports sponsorship deals to a serious of mysterious deaths in South Africa before the 2010 World Cup and speculates about the future of embattled FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Don't miss the linked story of what it was like to work for CONCACAF bosses. The most recent MetaFilter discussion of the ongoing FIFA scandals provides additional background.
posted by Copronymus (15 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another reason why FIFA chose Russia/Qatar over USA/England: You don't need to build new stadiums (and miss out on some fat kickbacks) in America or Blighty....
posted by PenDevil at 2:57 PM on August 15, 2011


Excellent long read. I wonder if the Russia/Qatar picks for World Cup will end up standing, or if the corrupt FIFA clique may have finally pushed their luck.
posted by chaz at 2:58 PM on August 15, 2011


PenDevil: Another reason why FIFA chose Russia/Qatar over USA/England: You don't need to build new stadiums (and miss out on some fat kickbacks) in America or Blighty....

Like mere lack of need ever stopped someone from building a ridiculous stadium.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:29 PM on August 15, 2011


I wonder if the Russia/Qatar picks for World Cup will end up standing, or if the corrupt FIFA clique may have finally pushed their luck.

The FIFA power base isn't the 20 countries with strong football leagues. It's the other 140 some-odd countries who are addicted to the kickbacks they're getting. When it's one association, one vote, who do you think wins?

Look at CONCACAF. North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. There are three associations in North American. Funny enough, the highest ranked *and* the highest revenue are MEX (1) and USA(2). Rounding NA out is CAN(10).

There are seven Central American associations. HON (4) CRC(5) PAN(6) SLV (7) GUA(14), BLZ (22) and NCA(29).

There are *thirty* Caribbean associations. In the top ten we have JAM(3), TRI(8) and CUB(9). All the rest are back markers -- indeed, there are five associations that aren't even rankable.

So, who gets the votes? Well, the NA associations get 3. The Caribbean associations get 30.

That's what drives the corruption. 30 tiny countries -- 25 of them with no hope of ever fielding a competitive national side -- get to dominate the federation. Do you think they'll possibly use that power for evil?
posted by eriko at 3:45 PM on August 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I have to google Sepp Blatter just to remind myself whether he's a real person or a character in a Douglas Adams novel. That is all.
posted by kyleg at 6:13 PM on August 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


eriko: I suspect something like the Premier League is coming in international football for that reason. The top national leagues leave, and make their own deals, at least long enough to bring FIFA to heel.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:09 PM on August 15, 2011


FIFA, like the Olympic committee, is famously corrupt and always has been. I agree with Grimgrin, the only solution is a breakaway by the top dozen international sides dragging everyone else along.
posted by joannemullen at 2:26 AM on August 16, 2011


The top national leagues leave, and make their own deals, at least long enough to bring FIFA to heel.

The problem with this is that, unlike North American pro sports leagues, the pro leagues don't actually run association football. This is actually done by the national football associations, which then get together in UEFA, CONCACAF, etc., and ultimately FIFA.

The good part of this is that the FAs don't just represent the interests of the rich pro teams, but of all levels of soccer, including amateur and youth teams. This contributes to the vibrancy of the game. The bad part is that national associations, mostly being a bunch of amateurs (even more so in places like the Caribbean), are easily co-opted by shady characters.

The richest pro teams have long envied the status of the NFL, NBA or NHL teams, running their competitions among them and keeping all the money. UEFA, the European football association, actually created the Champions League in its current form, out of the previous European Club Championship, to preempt a threatened breakaway Superleague by the European elite clubs.

Why have the richest European clubs nevertheless recoiled from such a breakaway so far? Well, mostly because they lack the antitrust exemptions of the North American pro leagues. The EU authorities keep a beady eye on their contracts, and only the legal cover of the non-profit football associations allows the pro teams some scope for cooperation between them when negotiating with players and TV networks.

This said, Blatter has long been pushing his luck. In order to earn ever more money for FIFA and its parasitic hangers-on, Blatter and his entourage have multiplied the number of international games and competitions. As long as they want to remain within the association system, the pro clubs are obliged to let their players play for their national teams as often as required, and they hate that: a lot of very expensive players end up knackered after so many international games, and the pro clubs are stuck with the bill. The Qatar World Cup has really been the cherry on top: the idea of having his best players play for a month under the unforgiving sun of the Gulf in the middle of the summer sends cold shivers down the spine of many a club owner.
posted by Skeptic at 3:22 AM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The latest rumours of a breakaway European football league were recently covered by the Guardian.

The current football business model is, well, fucked, not to put too a fine point on it and I could certainly see the top European clubs looking for yet more money. I doubt it has anything to do with a deeply felt moral revulsion at the corruption within FIFA however.
posted by fatfrank at 4:34 AM on August 16, 2011


I doubt it has anything to do with a deeply felt moral revulsion at the corruption within FIFA however.

No, more of a deeply felt revulsion at your top players getting hurt in Yet Another International Friendly. Imagine what would happen in the US if FIAFA decided that there should be a fifth international friendly in September, so all the pro american football leagues are going to lose their best players that weekend, and probably a few for longer than that.

Yet, that's what FIFA is demanding, and the UFEA leagues are pissed about it. In terms of league money, there's the EPL, La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A, and Ligue 1, and then there's everybody else. Heck, the Football League Championship in England is in the top ten, and they're the number two league!

If something happens, that's where it's going to happen -- those five leagues will take the lead.
posted by eriko at 6:48 AM on August 16, 2011


"No, more of a deeply felt revulsion at your top players getting hurt in Yet Another International Friendly."

Isn't that at bottom just another money issue? The players gets hurt on international duty and the club has to pay the bills. Or, even worse if it's a key player, the club gets knocked out of a competition or finishes lower down the league.

What the continued exposure of corruption in FIFA is doing is giving the big clubs the opportunity to break away by reducing public sympathy for FIFA.

I'm no fan of FIFA, or international football for that matter, but the big clubs are self-serving money-making machines operating with a complete disregard for lower-level football. At least FIFA and local associations such as the FA funnel some money their way.
posted by fatfrank at 8:00 AM on August 16, 2011


The problem with this is that, unlike North American pro sports leagues, the pro leagues don't actually run association football. This is actually done by the national football associations, which then get together in UEFA, CONCACAF, etc., and ultimately FIFA.

But surely if you could get the leagues eriko mentions to leave FIFA and create some other type of international governing body they would effectively run association football. The existing national and international bodies could stamp their feet and whinge all they want, but if Ronaldo is playing for Portugal against Messi's Argentina in the final of the International SuperLeague World Football Championship™, I don't think anyone is going to care what is happening in FIFA's "old World Cup thing".
posted by Rock Steady at 11:48 AM on August 16, 2011


if Ronaldo is playing for Portugal against Messi's Argentina in the final of the International SuperLeague World Football Championship™

It isn't in the leagues' interest or intention to recreate that sort of tournament. They'd rather prefer to have Cristiano Ronaldo play only for Real Madrid, and Leonel Messi only for FC Barcelona, without having to lose them even temporarily to national teams. This is why it is important to make the difference between the professional leagues, which represent the pro teams, and the associations,which represent the sport at all leves and put together the national teams. FIFA is currently threatened on both sides: on one hand the better-run associations may grow tired of subsidising Blatter's friends. On the other hand, the top pro teams may decide to quit the association system altogether, much like the NBA keeps its distance from the international basketball federation FIBA, playing with its own rulebook and often refusing to let its top players play for their national teams.
posted by Skeptic at 12:14 PM on August 16, 2011


They'd rather prefer to have Cristiano Ronaldo play only for Real Madrid, and Leonel Messi only for FC Barcelona, without having to lose them even temporarily to national teams.

Well, there is going to be some sort of international association football competition, and I bet they'd rather have them play for a national team that is at their beck and call, in a tournament for which they are selling sponsorships, than playing in a FIFA-run tournament. I'm not saying it would be a good thing, but it is the only way out from under the corrupt thumb of FIFA. At least if it is all blatantly commercial we know who is being bought and sold.

And I'll just leave this here.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:22 PM on August 16, 2011


"there is going to be some sort of international association football competition"

Doesn't necessarily follow. The big clubs dislike international football for the reasons mentioned above but a key point is their fans don't particularly like it either. Most serious fans of a big side would put club over country every day of the week and I think to an extent so would most of the senior players.

I can't find the article at the moment, it was written a few years ago, but it contained interviews with some fans of Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea etc and the one comment I remember was from a Man United fan dismissing international football as something for the fans of smaller clubs to cheer about. If you look at the national flags in the crowd during an England international, you'll only ever see the names of the small clubs represented, the Burys or the Southends and never anything bigger than say Wolves or Birmingham (no disrespect to any blue noses intended and I hope you enjoy a lengthy European run this season : ) ). The names of big clubs are very seldom seen.

I think the same applies to senior players; given a choice between playing for their country or grinding out a few more club games, they'll pick whoever is paying their wages first. For the younger players it's a bit different and I can see an Olympics style under 23 years plus 3 over format working but international football is rapidly becoming a side show. The standard of football in the Champions League is better than the majority of the World Cup. If the big clubs decide to go it alone, neither their supporters nor players will be moaning much

From a pure footballing perspective I don't particularly have a problem with the end of International football as, unlike cricket or rugby, it is simply not the pinnacle of the game. What I do have issue with is support for the lower leagues and grassroots football. A tiny as the slice of the pie they currently get is, you can bet it'll be a damn sight smaller if FIFA and the national associations become more marginalised
posted by fatfrank at 2:49 AM on August 17, 2011


« Older Over the centuries, the high seas have served as a...  |  As reported by Agence France P... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments