Another football scandal. I think I last wrote about FIFA alleged corruption around a year ago, when the England team booked a day return to the World Cup.
This seems to be another example of individuals exploiting the power of the organisation they represent to gain undue personal advantage. Those old Top Gear presenters struck me as a case in point and FIFA's organisation appears to be another.
I once consulted to an organisation that was based in, let's say, Germany and wholly funded by a consortium of other (non-linked) companies.
The other companies put some money into the pot for this special small but highly leveraged organisation to function.
There were enough contributors to mean that no-one really noticed their individual subscriptions, but the resultant organisation then had bucket loads of money. Unrelated but apposite, their office headquarters had a large champagne bottle advertising motif on the roof of the building. The sort that Jason Bourne hides behind in those spy movies.
This central organisation would keep its member organisations on-side by running fact-finding expeditions as a sort of industrial tourism.
That's how I became involved, doing something that I innocently thought was proper research. The organisers of the trip wanted it to be more about hospitality and it turned into a boozy trip to a New Orleans jazz festival, California and then back to New York.
All about schmooze and ensuring the ongoing funding. Something that FIFA has done well, both upstream (to get sponsor money) and downstream (to opaquely allocate its use).
Huge amounts of money flow through the central headquarters located in Switzerland, that discreet and tax-efficient country. Blatter's own nephew Phillipe is CEO of the Infront organisation which has the TV and hospitality rights to FIFA's World Cup, which must be some kind of uncanny co-incidence.
So we get the award of the 2018 World Cup to Qatar. As FIFA's own Adjudicatory Committee of the Ethics Committee Garcia report summary says, no corruption there.
Nor for the allocation to Russia in 2022. Or the prior allocation to South Africa back in 2010.
Buried in the report are various implied infractions. A few quick examples I plucked from a skim read:
- There's the handling of an Australian whistleblower. The report explains that all the evidence provided was ignored because of a leak to the press of some confidential information.
- There's also the interesting description of 'football development projects', implying money for indeterminate purposes.
- Then there's the requests made to England by some FIFA officials, later investigated in the FA's own Dingemans Report. England appeared to be trying to support some of the official requests which, in the FIFA report, puts the implied transgressions at England's doorstep rather than the FIFA officials.
- Curiously, all the bidding nations were allocated 'Low Risk' on operational matters, except two, Qatar (High Risk) and Russia (Medium Risk). Of course, these are the two that ultimately triumphed.
- The Qatar bid whistleblower was also eliminated from investigations because the voluminous documentation provided appeared contradictory in some areas. The investigation removed this whistleblower's entire evidence.
There's more examples, and as Mr Blatter has already said, he can't be aware of everything that goes on in FIFA, so maybe these points were too small to grab his attention. I suppose the alleged payment of $10m to Mr Jack Warner is one of those trifling details as well?
The full confidential report (which the CIA are trying to get a copy of) goes on to make some concluding remarks, notably that the main challenge with corruption is to proving it.
I can't help feeling there's some aspects of what magicians call misdirection or attention direction in the report too. Notwithstanding the bid, there's the allocation of suppliers to deliver the substantial project of the actual World Cup. No need to look at any of that which will be all fine and dandy.
So finally, in bold, the report concludes that the 2018 and 2022 bids were in full compliance with the ethics committee.
That's OK then.