Thoughts on the FIFA Corruption Case

I mentioned when I started this blog that I really started paying attention to soccer in 1994 when the World Cup came to the USA and The City Beautiful, and for a number of years I pretty much only followed the sport during those quadrennial tournaments. When Orlando City arrived in town I began following the club at first casually, and then I bought season tickets for 2014 so I could see the team in their last year in USL Pro and their first year in MLS.

So with that preamble, I can say that I'm not the most knowledgeable fan when it comes to the role FIFA plays in the day-to-day governance of the game, but I do understand its importance in organizing and overseeing regional and global tournaments and organizations such as the World Cup and CONCACAF. 

My thoughts on the current corruption scandal are that it is yet another example that proves Machiavelli right. FIFA is a huge organization that is run by a small number of very powerful individuals that deal with governments and global media conglomerates that compete for billions of dollars of annual rights fees and revenues. Having influence over that much money is a great temptation for many people, and the longer the same people are in those positions of power, the more tempted they are to make decisions that cross ethical lines for the simple fact that they see other people do it and they don't see any visible consequences or repercussions. In fact at some point the unethical becomes routine.

So even if there is no evidence that current FIFA president Sepp Blatter has paid or taken any bribes or has crossed any ethical lines, then he needs to be replaced along with all the rest of the bad apples. In fact there are only two explanations for why this corruption could go on for so many years with him at the helm, and both prove that he needs to be replaced.

The first explanation is that Blatter is corrupt as well, but like Lance Armstrong succeeded in doing for so many years, he's just been better at hiding it than everyone else. Seen in this light, he could always make sure that shady dealings were done with a few more layers of obfuscation and a few more complex arrangements that could provide an illusion of separating him from any wrongdoing.

The second explanation is that Blatter is simply incompetent. In this scenario, Sepp Blatter would simply be too gullible or too stupid to realize that these other high-level officials were conducting such malfeasance right under his nose and in the name of his organization. Logic dictates that if he was so incompetent to allow it to happen in the past, he's equally likely to let someone get away with a different kind of corruption in the future, even if he succeeds in permitting the same type of thing from happening again.

Finally, I'm not terribly surprised to see this happen, nor do I think it puts the sport or its global popularity in jeopardy. Show me a major sports league globally or in the USA that hasn't had a scandal, and I'll show you one that's not really worth being considered a major sports league. There have been scandals in every sport from Cycling to the NBA to Formula 1. Each have been slightly different and each has involved different segments of the organization--players, owners, officials, or team organizations--but none of them enjoy the global popularity enjoyed by The Beautiful Game. In fact, the only other sporting body where I can recall such corruption involving the highest levels of the organization is the International Olympic Committee, and that's probably also due to the universal global appeal and competition for TV rights and host nation status enjoyed by the Olympic Games.

In my opinion, if the allegations are proven true then it's clear that a small number of people in tremendous positions of power throughout FIFA have done some terrible things and should be removed and punished. But I don't think that's going to mean that sporting leagues like the EPL, La Liga, and the MLS will dry up and blow away tomorrow, nor do I think there's any chance that the quadrennial occurrence of the World Cup or any of the other regional, hemispheric, or global tournaments that FIFA oversees being put into any jeopardy. The sport will continue and grow and hopefully it will be managed in a more transparent and ethical manner.

What about you? Do you have real fears about the future of Soccer's global popularity in the wake of the scandal? Do you fear that some sort of fundamental change will happen with FIFA that will have a negative impact on the game either in the USA or around the world? Let me know what you think!