By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (February 1st 2021)
The FIFAGate Scandal of 2015 unmasked the industry and hypocrisy at the highest levels of the game.
It resulted in bans and even jail for some. It was clear that FIFA (the Federation of International Football Associations) had become a bloated and corrupt institution. Joseph Sepp Blatter became the only FIFA President to be impeached and then banned from football. But for his age – he was in 90s – Blatter’s predecessor, João Havelange would have suffered a similar fate.
Brasilian football administration would be proved to be rotten to the core as well, but CONMEBOL (South America’s confederation) was far from alone. CONCACAF (the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) was also thoroughly rotten.
It was the flagrant dishonesty of CONCACAF’s Secretary General, Chuck Blazer, which belatedly exposed corruption throughout FIFA. But the journalist Andrew Jennings deserves great credit for his exposure of corruption in football far earlier.
FIFA had a Herculean task to restore its reputation after the slew of accusations and arrests. Blazer had lived a flamboyant lifestyle that belied his legitimate earning potential. It was obvious that something was badly wrong. It led to probes of his tax affairs and it became clear that Blazer owed a lot of unpaid taxes – a serious offence that could have led to imprisonment.
Unwell and keen to avoid jail, Blazer squealed for all he was worth. Others faced the same choice or arrest and jail. Many cooperated, exposing more and more of the corrupt world of football. The scale of corruption was getting exposed. It was far worse than most had imagined in their worst fears. The house came crashing down.
Public confidence in FIFA had never been lower. Restoring confidence in FIFA’s integrity required a repeat performance of one of the Labours of Heracles – Cleaning the Augean Stables.1
But while Heracles successfully completed his task of cleansing the Augean Stables, FIFA still had some way to go.
The old order of Sepp Blatter had been swept aside in 2015. UEFA (the Union of European Football Associations) President and former French great, Michel Platini seemed set to replace Blatter if he challenged Blatter or waited, but a probe of payments to Platinihad dire consequences. Described as ‘Disloyal Payments’ both Blatter and Platini fell from grace and were banned by FIFA.
The Confederation of African Football’s President Issa Hayatou was also a Vice President of FIFA. He became Acting President of FIFA after Blatter was impeached. There was a vacancy for the top job in football and the man who had seemed the heir apparent had also been ruled out of contention.
Gianni Infantino had been Secretary General of UEFA. Infantino secured the Presidency of FIFA. That left vacancies at UEFA. Slovenian, Aleksander Čeferin, became President of UEFA. Although Platini’s ban was subsequently reduced, the duration still prevented him from challenging Infantino, when his former General Secretary stood for a second term.
The scale of corruption within football was astronomic. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) used the testimony of the corrupt American administrator, the late Chuck Blazer, to uncover a web of corruption. Many were brought down. It swept aside the corrupt Ancien Régime and paved the way for reform – at least that was the claim – but did it?
It was clear that for football to regain its reputation and to thrive, it had to be seen to be as pure as Cæsar’s wife, and we are not talking about the Emperor Claudius’ wife, the insatiable Messalina Valeria.
And that meant dealing with the Rogue Confederation where it had all started – CONCACAF – once and for all. And exposing the hypocrisy of the ‘avenging angels.’