May 25, 2018

May 27, 2015


Three years ago, on May 27, 2015, the major press outlets ran scathing reports of corruption within FIFA in the selection of Russia for 2018 and Qatar for 2022 as FIFA World Cup hosts.

An editorial in The Washington Post, “FIFA’s ugly stains on the beautiful game,” noted the U.S. investigation against FIFA led by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and called FIFA “a cesspool of corruption and bribery.” It stated: “Soccer fans have long been mystified at FIFA’s choice of Vladimir Putin’s increasingly aggressive and repressive Russia over several Western European candidates to host the World Cup in 2018, and rich but tiny and climactically unsuitable Qatar over the United States, Australia and a joint Japanese-Korean bid for 2022.” The editorial also noted that a criminal investigation was opened by Switzerland, and Swiss agents were helping U.S. prosecutors by arresting several indicted FIFA officials in Zurich.

The New York Times editorial, “FIFA’s Corruption Stains World Soccer,” dated May 27, pointed out that 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives were charged with “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption, and seven were promptly arrested by Swiss authorities in Zurich. Investigators also seized electronic data and documents at FIFA headquarters. “Those selections [of Russia and Qatar] immediately raised suspicion of foul play when they were announced in December 2010, and the controversy has only deepened with reports about the appalling treatment of foreign laborers working on World Cup facilities in the blistering heat of Qatar.” The editorial called for the ouster of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the restructuring of FIFA, as well as a rigorous re-examination of the selection of Russia and Qatar as host countries.

An article by Red Standish in Foreign Policy read: “Moscow accused Washington of illegally applying laws around the world. ‘Once again we are calling on Washington to stop attempts to make justice far beyond its borders using its legal norms and to follow generally accepted international procedures,’ said Alexander Lukashevich, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, adding that the recently announced investigation is ‘clearly another case of illegal exterritorial use of U.S. law.’” 

Paul Roderick Gregory, in his Forbes magazine opinion piece “Sanction FIFA and Putin at the Same Time: Take the 2018 World Cup from Russia,” suggested, “nothing could be worse for Putin that losing the 2018 World Cup; it would be more severe that the economic recession and Russia’s declining living standards. Russians can live without imported foods and Turkish vacations, but they may not tolerate being branded as a rogue nation not deserving a World Cup…”

Mr. Gregory continued: “Kremlin propaganda has shifted into high gear. In an on-camera interview, Russia’s World Cup representative expressed surprise that the ‘armed conflict’ in Ukraine could be considered a reason to relocate the 2018 World Cup. H intoned disdainfully that Russia has no involvement in Ukraine and that the Minsk Peace accord, brokered by Russia, has ended the conflict. Thus, Russia’s only role in Ukraine is that of a peacemaker. Russia’s sports minister rushed before the cameras to declare that ‘Russia has nothing to hide.’ Blatter declared that ‘there are no boycotts’ in international soccer and that ‘football is an instrument of peace.’ …” 

Since then, Mr. Blatter has been fired, and there has been a global call by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian World Congress for government leaders to boycott the World Cup in Russia this year, which runs from June 14 through July 15. Meanwhile, German Judge Hans-Joachim Eckert cleared Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoing in what many saw as a whitewash of the incident, and a confirmation of rampant corruption at FIFA.

Source: “In the Press: Corruption in FIFA,”(The Washington Post, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and Forbes) The Ukrainian Weekly, June 7, 2015.