The Fédération Internationale de Football Association is the body that organizes international soccer games and tournaments, most notably the World Cup. Established in 1904, the non-profit organization is based in Zurich, Switzerland. And at some point since then it was apparently taken over by supervillains.
So while it may organize the biggest and most beloved tournament in the world, FIFA is one of the most controversial organizations in operation today. Even though the 2014 World Cup is over, FIFA will continue to be in the headlines for years to come because of…
10. 2022 Qatar World Cup
One of the biggest controversies in recent FIFA history was the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The Middle Eastern country doesn’t have a strong soccer infrastructure and are ranked 100th in the FIFA ranking system. They also don’t have the stadiums, the hotels or the public transit to host the World Cup. Even if they did build the entire infrastructure the country only has two million people, so there would be no one to use it afterwards.
It’s also next to impossible to play professional soccer there. Qatar’s summer temperatures are often over 110F (43C). It would be dangerous for fans sitting in the stadium, and it could be deadly to players. Officials say they’ll build stadiums with air conditioners, but critics say that isn’t feasible.
So, how did a country like Qatar become able to host the World Cup? Critics say corruption, plain and simple. Qatar billionaire Mohamed bin Hammam has paid millions in bribes to FIFA officials over the years. Also, FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been supported and propped up by Qatar officials since his first election in 1998. But due to the controversy, there are rumors that FIFA officials may reverse their decision and award the 2022 World Cup to the United States.
9. Forced Alcohol Sales
One of the biggest sponsors of the World Cup is Budweiser, who naturally want to sell beer at World Cup games. But back in 2003 Brazil had banned the sale of alcohol in stadiums because too many people had died from drinking too much, acting stupid while drunk or getting caught up in violence. The ban was quite simply a health and safety issue.
FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke’s response to the attempt to save lives was “Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we’re going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant, but that’s something we won’t negotiate.” As a result, the Brazilian government lifted the ban on alcohol and the “Budweiser Bill” was passed and signed by the president of the country. And while alcohol is banned completely in Qatar, they’ll bend their beliefs in order to host FIFA and its sponsors.
8. FIFA Courts
When South Africa was set to host the World Cup in 2010, one of the biggest concerns was the country’s crime rate. In response, 56 special courts were set up to deal swift justice to offenders who targeted foreigners. For example, the first people who experienced the “FIFA Court” were two men from Zimbabwe who robbed a journalist at gunpoint on a Wednesday. By Friday they were sentenced to 15 years in prison.
There were other stories of a man getting five years in prison for stealing a cell phone from a foreigner. Two women were arrested for wearing orange dresses and charged with “unlawful commercial activities” because they were trying to promote a Dutch beer that wasn’t Budweiser. The stories go on, and while FIFA denied responsibility for the kangaroo courts, critics say they’re responsible for the climate and should have denounced the practice.
7. The International Sport and Leisure Scandal
International Sport and Leisure (ISL) was a Swiss marketing firm that won the television advertising rights for the World Cup in the late ’90s. They were an odd choice, considering there were higher bids on the table. However, the firm collapsed in 2001 with almost $258 million in debt. That was even odder, since they had the rights to one of the most watched sporting events in the world.
So where did all the money go? Well, a good chunk of it went to something called “commissions,” which are otherwise known as bribes. Almost $111 million was paid out to FIFA officials from ISL. FIFA tried to keep this secret for years, but Swiss authorities launched a four year investigation into the downfall of ISL. Despite the revelations no one was charged, and many believe that was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bribery and FIFA.
6. Unsustainable Wasteful Stadiums
In order to host the World Cup, the host country needs to build stadiums. However, a lot of the stadiums are built in places where they can’t be sustained after the World Cup. Of the six stadiums built for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, only two can be sustained and the others may be closed.
In Brazil, FIFA built a stadium in Manaus, which is deep in the Amazon. There are no major roads leading there, so in order to get supplies tons of stainless steel was shipped from Portugal and brought down the Amazon River. Only four World Cup games were played there, but over $300 million was spent on the 42,000 seat stadium. Games held in the old Manaus stadium, which was torn down because it wasn’t up to FIFA regulations, only attracted 1,000 people at most.
That brings us to Qatar again, which plans to build 12 stadiums. But after the World Cup it’s likely that many of those stadiums will never be used again.
5. Horrendous Working Conditions
Speaking of stadiums, since so many have to be built workers find themselves in rushed, dangerous conditions. Three people were killed building the stadium in Mansus, which is almost one for every game played there.
As bad as that is, it’s nothing compared to the working conditions in Qatar. Since construction started in 2012, over 1000 migrant workers have died. If conditions don’t change, 4000 workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh are expected to lose their lives.
One of the many targets of criticism is the Kafala sponsorship system. In order for someone to work in Qatar they need a sponsor, which is often their employer. The employer is in charge of their visa and often holds their passport once they start working. This creates a form of virtual slavery that the workers can’t escape from.
4. Doesn’t Pay Taxes in Host Countries
One thing you have to know when hosting FIFA is that they don’t pay income tax when they come into a country. Their argument is that they’re a non-profit and they bring businesses, tourists and new infrastructure to a country.
We’ve already pointed out the flaws in building stadiums. While it’s true that the World Cup brings in tourists and businesses, the numbers don’t add up. Brazil spent close to $14 billion on the World Cup, and it’s unlikely they’ll ever recoup that money. Since the 2006 World Cup, Germany made about $5 billion; this was after they invested $12 billion. South Africa only made back about $513 million of their $6 billion investment. The past two hosts haven’t recovered even half of their investment.
FIFA, on the other hand? They made $4 billion in Brazil and are simply going to move on to another country.
3. Corrupt Executive Board
The FIFA executive board consists of 24 members. They’re the upper echelon of the corporation and out of those 24 men, 12 have been accused of some type of corruption.
Some of the highlights include Mohammed bin Hammam, who was the Asian Football Confederation president for nine years and served on the executive board for 15 years. For the 2011 FIFA Presidential elections, bin Hammam was not giving his support to President Sepp Blatter like he had in the two prior elections. That’s when FIFA began an investigation on bin Hammam, after which he was charged with bribing soccer officials for votes. He was brought in front of FIFA’s ethics committee and was banned for life.
Then there’s Jack Warner, who was elected Vice President of The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) in 1983 before becoming President of CONCACAF from 1990 to 2001. He was also appointed one of the Vice Presidents of FIFA in 1997, and has been accused of corruption all the way back to the ’80s.
One major scandal involved selling black market tickets for the 2002 World Cup. Even worse, Trinidad and Tobago’s Football Federation gave money to Jack Warner to be used to aid Haiti after the 2010 hurricane. $740,000 of the donation is unaccounted for, but Warner denied knowing anything about it. He resigned on June 20, 2011, and FIFA’s investigation ended. He paid back about $2 million, but it’s likely that he stole much more.
2. Corrupt President
Sepp Blatter is the four term president of FIFA, which is a remarkable feat considering he’s as classy as your racist great uncle who gets drunk at every family gathering. Some of his better moments include suggesting women soccer players wear shorter shorts and lower cut shirts in order to attract more viewers, and interrupting a moment of silence for Nelson Mandela after 11 seconds.
You may wonder how someone like that could have possibly achieved such a lofty position, but if you’re been paying attention you’ve already guessed the answer — he bought votes and accepted bribes. During his first election campaign he was given donations and was lent a jet by the Emir of Qatar so he could visit voters, to whom he would hand out envelopes stuffed with cash.
And that’s how his career has been kept alive. As Slate’s Jeremy Stahl puts it: “Blatter’s pattern has always been to indignantly deny corruption until evidence was presented, then to say that no laws had been broken, then to promise to fight back against corruption, then when the latest affair has blown over, to return to the truculent claim that there is no corruption in FIFA.”
In order to appear clean, he invited a consulting firm to audit his books. The head of the consulting firm was Blatter’s nephew and Godson, and they inexplicably didn’t find any problems.
If this was all part of enhancing the beautiful game, fans might be a bit more forgiving. However, he appears to care very little about the sport. For example, in order to win the favor of voters in smaller countries, he uses their local referees instead of much better ones from larger nations. He was also adamantly against goal line technology, which only changed because of a number of controversial goals leading up to the 2014 World Cup. Despite all of this, Blatter is up for re-election in 2015.
1. FIFA’s Reserve
One thing FIFA officials make clear is that they’re a non-profit organization. However, they’re one of the richest non-profits in the world — as of 2013 they had over $1.4 billion in their reserves.
That may not seem bad, considering they’re not owned by a government, nor are they a charity. However, if you take into consideration that Brazil and South Africa, who both struggle with poverty, lost or will lose money while hosting the World Cup, one can’t help but think that some of their money could have been put to good use. Especially considering how much of it likely came from bribes and other kickbacks.
So yes, FIFA is allowed to do what they want with their money. But should they have over a billion dollars in their bank account while leaving a trail of destruction everywhere they go? It shows how greedy, demented and self-centered this “non-profit” organization really is.