FIFA Handed a Red Card by the U.S.

Michael Tremoulis, KLJ Senior Staff Editor[1]

Last year, FIFA took in $5.7 billion worth of revenue[2], the majority of which comes from television contracts for showing the Men’s World Cup. It seems every year, regardless of how many people do not regularly enjoy watching soccer in the United States, everyone becomes a soccer fan once the World Cup arrives. Unbeknownst to many, there have been constant allegations concerning the organization’s corruption behind the scenes of the World Cup.

This corruption has mainly gone unnoticed by the public until this year, when the United States indicted several members of the FIFA organization. The indictment is the result of allegations of bribes and kickbacks. More corruption can be seen in how Blatter, FIFA’s recently re-elected president, can control elections. For example, Blatter, with access to the $1.5 billion in FIFA’s reserve funds, can distribute that money to countries of his choosing for soccer developmental programs.[3] Because each country’s soccer association has equal voting power in elections, FIFA officials can influence poor nations’ votes by promising them millions of dollars through these developmental programs. An example is the $150 million FIFA promised to the Bahamas for developmental programs before the most recent FIFA presidential election, even though developmental programs funds would have been better spent in countries like Brazil or Spain.[4]

FIFA’s president Blatter and other nations, such as Russia, have spoken out against the U.S. action, stating that it is just another example of the American justice system overstepping its jurisdiction on an autonomous foreign organization. How exactly does the United States have jurisdiction? FIFA is incorporated as a non-profit, tax-exempt organization in Zurich, Switzerland. As a result, it pays no federal taxes and requires very little transparency.  In order to have jurisdiction, the United States is trying to prove that kickbacks and bribes were organized on U.S. soil and obtained through the United States banking system.[5] However, just because arrest warrants are issued does not mean authorities in Switzerland needed to arrest and extradite the officials. In this specific case it appears Switzerland and the United States cooperated in the criminal investigation, because the officials were arrested in Zurich.[6]

Regardless of the problems encountered by foreign jurisdictions, such a lucrative and nontransparent world organization needs its actions watched.  If no other country is willing to take the necessary measures, it seems like an appropriate job for the U.S. to play the part of the white knight. With recent World Cup bids going to Russia and Qatar, even if these indictments do not have fruitful results, the public awareness is a huge positive factor in trying to clean up corruption in FIFA.  The success of these indictments can be seen in the recent resignation of FIFA’s president, Blatter. This resignation is a result of more allegations regarding $10 million in bribes to FIFA officials for their votes for the 2008 FIFA World Cup to be in South Africa.[7] This recent indictment is just what the international soccer community needed to occur, and hopefully it will prevent future FIFA officials from playing dirty.

[1] J.D. May 2015.

[2] Gigi Alford and Sam Dupont, Why Soccer’s Strongman Is a Bad Role Model for the World, Foreign Policy.Com (May 20, 2015),…

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Elliot McLaughlin and Greg Botelho, FIFA corruption marks ‘World Cup of fraud,’ IRS Chief Says, CNN (May 28, 2015),…

[6] Philip Bump, How the U.S. can arrest FIFA officials in Switzerland, explained, Washington Post (May 27, 2015),…

[7] Sepp Blatter resigns as FIFA president; corruption investigation continues.