After years of scandal and a United States-led investigation that forced the resignation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter, the world governing body of football has finally admitted that past World Cups were awarded based on bribes. However, if you think this is the end to a history of shocking naiveté by FIFA officials, think again.
On Wednesday, FIFA requested that U.S. authorities return tens of million dollars of last year’s $190 million seizure from alleged corrupt officials working for the organization. Now that the organization has openly admitted that past World Cup’s were indeed awarded because of bribes accepted by top ranking officials within FIFA, it’s almost laughable that the governing body of the world’s most popular sport thinks that it should get some of that money back.
In a statement released by the organization, current FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: “The monies [the convicted defendants] pocketed belonged to global football and were meant for the development and promotion of the game. FIFA as the world governing body of football wants that money back and we are determined to get it no matter how long it takes.”
At first glance, FIFA’s play for restitution is certainly understandable. FIFA’s lawyers argue that the organization “has become notable for the defendants’ bribery and corruption, not its many good works” and is “entitled to restitution for this harm to its business relationships, reputation and intangible property.” But the bribery and shady business of global soccer officials working on behalf of the organization is a symptom not just of greed but a culture of corruption at FIFA that was so blatant to the world that it’s almost shocking that it took 17 years before Sepp Blatter finally resigned to dodge the heat. How else does a country like Qatar receive a World Cup?
“The convicted defendants abused the positions of trust they held at FIFA and other international football organizations and caused serious and lasting damage to FIFA,” Infantino said. “”These dollars were meant to build football fields, not mansions and pools; to buy football kits, not jewelry and cars; and to fund youth player and coach development, not to underwrite lavish lifestyles for football and sports marketing executives.”
FIFA’s desperate grab for the money seized by U.S. authorities is a bit overzealous, considering that the organization, whether knowingly or unknowingly, did in fact participate in a global corruption scandal that spans multiple editions of the beloved World Cup. A simple acknowledgement or admission of bribery does not suddenly rectify the reputation of the world governing body of football. If anything, FIFA’s plea for money seized on account of its officials’ crimes only further distances the organization from the fans and players that have sworn loyalty to the sport.