Fourteen top-level FIFA officials and sports-marketing executives were charged with corruption, as the overseers of World Cup soccer are accused of accepting bribes to rig tournament bids, marketing, media rights and more.
The dramatic arrests came at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, during a meeting of FIFA officials and arose from a United States Department of Justice investigation, charging 14 FIFA officials and sports-marking execs in the United States and South America with racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy, including some $150 million in kickbacks and bribes relating to media deals. From The New York Times:
The arrests were a startling blow to FIFA, a multibillion-dollar organization that governs the world’s most popular sport but has been plagued by accusations of bribery for decades.
The inquiry is also a major threat to Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s longtime president who is generally recognized as the most powerful person in sports, though he was not charged. Blatter has for years acted as a de facto head of state. Politicians, star players, national soccer officials and global corporations that want their brands attached to the sport have long genuflected before him….
According to the indictment, several international soccer events were tainted by bribes and kickbacks involving media and marketing rights: World Cup qualifiers in the Concacaf region; the Gold Cup, a regional championship tournament; the Concacaf Champions League; the Copa América; and the South American club championship, the Copa Libertadores. The indictment also claims that bribes and kickbacks were found in connection with the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup.
The alleged kickbacks and bribes are also said to thwart attempts to place World Cup tourneys in the United States in 2018 and 2022, tournaments that went to Qatar and Russia. At this point, say FIFA officials, there will be no reexamination of the 2018 and 2022 tourney hosts, but this story will certainly be in the news over coming months, and the continued reign of Sepp Blatter will be under extreme scrutiny.