Tuesday, FIFA filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York, seeking millions of dollars in restitution from the nearly $200 million so far forfeited by those accused of wrongdoing who have plead guilty. FIFA is attempting to argue that the organization was victimized by its leadership who took bribes and embezzled funds, bilking the many rightful recipients of those funds.
New FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, in a statement yesterday, said that the monies which were misappropriated were intended to “develop and promote the sport.”
If it turns out, Infantino and his cronies—those still in their jobs, or now in better ones, while others are being indicted—were in effect not guilty of “acting in a willfully blind manner toward the commission of these crimes,” as the case’s governing U.S. federal law stipulates, then not getting the monies returned would be a travesty. But if the current leadership were then turning a blind eye, and if today they do not mean to enact and folloe the administrative changes they have promised, for whatever reasons, well, then it’s another story.
In short, one of two possible alternatives should rule the day.
FIFA should indeed receive some of the monies the U.S. Justice Department obtains via this on-going investigation, and U.S. and Swiss authorities should jointly endeavor to find the best way to ensure those funds reach the levels at which the sport needs development and promotion most.
Rather than simply pass a check over to Infantino, the authorities should require FIFA to submit a detailed list of the myriad local programs the money was earmarked to serve, and who were adversely affected by not receiving the money that went instead to the wrongdoers. Thereafter the authorities should cut checks to each and every program that was verifiably adversely affected. In this manner the millions of dollars in question would indeed go directly to anyone who actually suffered as a consequence of the long-standing fiscal recklessness that has pervaded FIFA for decades.
Similarly, if it turns out that the monies requested by FIFA from the authorities had no other expected destination than FIFA’s own coffers, those same authorities should pursue not only keeping the funds requested, but demanding direct payment of twice the requested amount of money from FIFA itself, as punishment for its unrepentant and institutionally ingrained greed.
Those combined funds (the original amount requested, the one obtained from the monies forfeited, and the penalty monies surrendered by FIFA) should then be administered by a third party, jointly chosen by the Swiss and U.S. authorities, who would divide the funds equally among three efforts.
First, disburse one third of those funds to those who should rightfully receive them at the local level throughout the globe, for the betterment of the sport.
Second, use another third of the monies to fund an independent commission, the Really Fair Play commission, whose single goal would be to train FIFA-certified referees on how to apply the laws of the game equitably in every match. The commission would dissolve after all referees had undertaken the training. At that time, FIFA would be required to institute an independent, outside watchdog system to ensure incompetent or untrustworthy officials were banned from professional pitches forever, after being found guilty of bias or incompetence in three matches within a period of three professional league seasons.
Third, use another third of the monies to fund another independent commission, the Accountable Bidding and Hosting commission. This commission would be an on-going one, which would convene every time a World Cup bidding process begins. This commission’s dual goals would be to verify the feasibility of would-be World Cup hosts’ claims prior to accepting their bids, and then to examine the actual performance of successful World Cup bidders, to ensure, post-cup, that they followed through with their development promises. Should bidders’ claims be judged unfeasible, the bidders would be disqualified. Should successful bidders not follow through on their promises, they would be required to provide twice the benefit they had promised to all they promised it to, before they could participate in any future World Cups.
If it turns out, Infantino and his cronies—those still in their jobs, or now in better ones, while others are being indicted—were in effect guilty of “acting in a willfully blind manner toward the commission of these crimes,” as the case’s governing U.S. federal law stipulates, then Infantino should retract FIFA’s suit and accept, on behalf of the organization for which he has long been working and for which he is now ultimately responsible, FIFA’s own medicine.