Today will be the start of a new era for FIFA, as the governing body of soccer will be electing a new president. FIFA has come under intense scrutiny over the past year with corruption charges levelled against the Zurich-based organization. FIFA has been accused of questionable activity in the past, however things reached a boiling point beginning in 2010.
When former FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced that Russia had won the bid to host the 2018 World Cup and the 2022 tournament would be held in the tiny country of Qatar, lots of questions arose.
Then last May, seven high ranking FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich as part of the FBI’s investigation in to illegal activity. A 47-count indictment included charges of racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.
Some of the more brazen accusations include those issued against Jack Warner. The former Vice President of FIFA and President of CONCACAF has been accused of asking for and then receiving a $10 million bribe. Additionally, he’s suspected of taking $750,000 allocated to help earthquake victims in Haiti.
Then there’s Jeffrey Webb. The former president of CONCACAF is thought to have had a new swimming pool installed at his home as part of a bribe.
Following the indictments, Richard Weber of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division said, “This really is the world cup of fraud and today we’re issuing FIFA a red card.”
So far 11 of 22 FIFA officials who were involved in the Russia and Qatar decisions have been fined, banned, suspended or are under investigation
In December, outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter and suspended UEFA president Michel Platini were each given an eight-year ban from all soccer related activities by FIFA’s ethics committee. Both appealed and just this week had their suspensions reduced from eight years to six years.
Five candidates are in the running to be elected new FIFA President. The leading contender is Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain. He is the President Of the governing body for soccer in Asia.
Those against Al-Khalifa point to his involvement in moving the 2022 World Cup from summer to winter. Then there are the charges from human rights organizations that he was involved in the torture and imprisonment of pro-democracy activists during the Arab Spring protests of 2011. He has denied these allegations.
Also on the ballot is:
- Gianni Infantino of Switzerland. He is currently the general secretary of UEFA, European soccer’s governing body. Dissenters question whether he was part of the inside circle that has been charged with corruption.
- Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan who is the president of the Middle East country’s soccer association.
- Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa. Sexwale is the head of FIFA’s anti-racism task force as well as being involved with brokering peace between the Israel and Palestine soccer associations.
- Jerome Champagne of France. He is a former FIFA official.
207 of the 209 FIFA member nations will be involved in the vote to elect a new president. Kuwait and Indonesia are currently banned from taking part.