As we discussed earlier, FIFA has responded to the arrests of soccer officials in its latest corruption scandal with open contempt for the public and prosecutors. Sepp Blatter, 79, was reelected as FIFA’s president for a fifth term by the world governing body’s 209 member associations. FIFA officials were still be processed as arrestees in the corruption investigation in the United States, but Blatter was reelected by a group that seems little more than made men in an international criminal organization. Now, Blatter has gone public with a mocking public rebuke of everyone who has tried to reform his organization and fight corruption.
Swiss authorities swooped into a hotel Wednesday and arrested some of the top soccer officers on corruption charges in the United States. The police notably went to one of the most expensive hotels in the world where these officials were treating themselves to another gold-plated over-the-top meeting with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. They were led from the five-star hotel in an early morning raid, but many will be disappointed that one official remained in his luxury hotel room untouched: Sepp Blatter.
After securing his reelection in a secret ballot, Blatter lashed out at U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Justice Department for daring to hold him or his associates accountably under bribery and corruption laws. Lynch correctly described FIFA as an organization run to enrich Blatter and his cronies. Blatter suggested that it was just sour grapes by the U.S. after its failed bid to for the 2022 World Cup — ignoring decades of criticism of Blatter in running one of the world’s most openly corrupt organizations. He absurdly suggested that all of the corruption allegations were just the work of American and English media: “The Americans were the candidates for the World Cup of 2022 and they lost. The English were the candidates for 2018 and they lost, so it was really with the English media and the American movement that came down.”
Blatter’s comments mirrored the comments of that other corrupt and authoritarian figure, Vladimir Putin, in denouncing the U.S. investigation as meddling in FIFA. The successful Russian bid for a future World Cup is being criticized as a highly suspect effort by anti-corruption advocates.
Blatter and FIFA are clearly committed to continuing their corrupt legacy. This leaves little choice for countries who value not just soccer but the rule of law. The United States must withdraw from FIFA — hopefully with England and other countries. FIFA has thrown down the gauntlet and it must be picked up. My expectation is that other nations will follow and either FIFA will collapse or it will finally yield to global public demand. If that happens, the entirety of the leadership and the governing rules must be tossed. Only then will this self-evident criminal enterprise be put down by those who reject corruption as an inherent part of international sports.