Yesterday it was announced that FIFA, the governing body of the global sport of football, had actually made a decision which was not watered down nor evading. Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii, two of 24 executive committee members, have been banned from voting in the ballot for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as a result of being caught trying to sell their vote for money by the English newspaper, The Sunday Times.
For those who are not au fait with the efficient and completely ‘fair’ practices of FIFA and its President, Sepp Blatter, let me shed a little light.
Sepp Blatter resists change at every opportunity. A classic example of this is a flat refusal to use technology i.e. goal-line cameras within each game. Maybe he has a point; it is only cricket, tennis, American football, rugby, basketball and ice hockey (to name a few) which use it. This, along with his loathing of the English Premiership and his attempt to take away one Champions League space (the top four teams in the Premiership get to compete in the Champions League European tournament the following year) and give it to another French side – ah, yes, Ligue 1 is very worthy.
Combine this with how FIFA now represents the old establishment, a gentlemen’s club. The Executive Committee consists of 24 members and represents every footballing nation i.e. not every country’s representative gets to vote on the World Cup ballot. With the numbers so small, is it any wonder that corruption proliferates? Swaying one or two votes can dramatically alter the outcome of the voting. If Blatter resists change to using modern camera technology, he is sure to resist increasing the membership of the Executive Committee.
There is outrage by fellow members and the wider FIFA membership at the method of journalism adopted by The Sunday Times. Issues such entrapment and fabricating the story have all surfaced and, quite frankly, shouldn’t detract away from the key issue. Members have been quick to state that journalists have a responsibility and should abide by the social rules. As a result, many members feel hostile to the English press and thus feel potentially hostile to England’s World Cup bid for 2018.
So here is the first dose of irony. Earlier in the year Lord Treisman, the former chairman of the English Football Association, accused Spain and Russia of trying to bribe World Cup referees. The irony here is that he said this to a former aide during a private dinner – no one in FIFA stood up and shouted ‘entrapment’ then.
The irony doesn’t end here, however.
Along with England, the other favourite to win the 2018 World Cup bid is Russia. Only just recently – November 5th – a journalist with Kommersant, Oleg Kashin was brutally assaulted in the courtyard of his own house. Smashed fingers so he could not write, broken jaw so he could not talk and a broken leg so he could not walk. His writing which calls into question the role of the state and issues facing was ultimately his undoing.
The Economist also published information of how a journalist, Mikhail Beketov, who wrote about corruption within politics was also assaulted to the extent to needing his leg and fingers amputated. He was recently in court to hear the verdict – the mayor had sued him for libel and dutifully won. Along with the amputations Beketov now has a fine.
The irony to lose the World Cup bid as a result of investigative journalism to Russia who has zero freedom of speech is incredible. England clearly has the better proposal with the vast majority of stadia ready, a guaranteed capacity crowd and superb transport. But with both FIFA and the Kremlin representing the old establishment, Russia has a fantastic chance.