Monday, 8 June 2015

Sopranos, the missing FIFA episode?


A fairly easy life-edit is to not bother to follow football/soccer.

I watch the occasional big game (in a half-hearted sort of way), but because I'm not in sales the rest is optional and leaves plenty of space for other things.

Recent events are re-inforcing my view of the racketeering of the whole industry, with the flow of bribes passing from one group of gangsters to the next in an orchestrated series of moves. I seem to remember writing a small item about the low-end of this back in 2006 - 'Bung' I recollect. This is altogether more industrial, with FIFA seemingly able to offer a mafia-like career progression for some of its more influential roles.

Learn the ropes as a bagman to the Don, before becoming his replacement. Set up a consigliere as operational fixer to manage decisions via a bunch of caporegime who handle the blocks of votes.

Sound familiar? It could be the Sopranos, or maybe it's the way international football is run nowadays?

The prior FIFA chief João Havelange and now Sepp Blatter appear to have presided over a global ring of money laundering, bribes and other corruption, mainly leveraged from the huge input financial streams of sponsors like Adidas, Sony, Visa, Coca-Cola and other household names.

As a quick check, I counted the recent list of FIFA indictments for some keywords...
  • launder = 25 times.
  • kickback = 26 times.
  • bribe = 116 times.
  • conspiracy/conspirator = 393 times
  • criminal counts = 47
Approximately, and yet I can't help feeling that this is only a part of the picture.

Back in Havelange's day he officially resigned on grounds of ill health, about the same time that his collapsed ISL company was being investigated for paying CHF 185 million in 'personal commissions' related to the World Cup.

Being a Swiss company, this form of commercial bribe was still legal at the time. It was also prudent to have another company or two like Sicuretta to allegedly skim the odd $50m with Ricardo Teixeira, his then son-in-law, for a rainy day. It was also handy that the ISL proceedings were cut short, although the exchange of a suspected further CHF5.5m to grease this was never proven.

In The Sopranos, there's an early episode when in poker Tony wins access to a 'civilian' buddy's sportsware business. They quickly order everything on credit, take delivery, steal it to sell cheap and then crash the company. These mafia plot-lines are simplistic and low key compared with what appears to be possible on the next rung of the ladder.

So if FIFA knew about Havelange's approach back in 1998, who was his closest man...Yes, you've guessed it. Herr Blatter. That would be the man who was determined to clean up, but perhaps he was speaking colloquially. And after 17 years has just said so again, along with a great Scorsese-esque line: I forgive but I don't forget.

But most of this isn't new news and people like Andrew Jennings have been reporting it for years. I suppose the hit on the wallet to the US IRS might be the reason for the latest attention?

Going back to the nature of an organised -er- crime syndicate, there has to be structure and it has to be constructed in a way to create co-dependencies. Support me or you go down as well.

Of course, I'm referring to The Sopranos here, there'd never be anything like it in FIFA.

Would there?

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