FIFA 2013 accounts: a damning picture of institutional cronyism, greed and corruption

Sport

Something is rotten in the state of FIFA. But then we’ve known that for years. In amongst the howls of indignation following the revelation that Qatar would host the World Cup in 2022 was the blossoming of the feeling that something wasn’t quite right in Sepp Blatter’s ivory tower into outright and open suspicion. For many the only explanation for voting to hold a football tournament in the desert was corruption, something that FIFA has had to repeatedly deny since the decision to award the world cup to Qatar in 2010. Following the life bans handed down to former FIFA bigwigs Jack Warner and Mohammed Bin Hamman in 2011 and 2012 respectively, and the setting up of a ethics committee the organisation seemed to be intent on rehabilitating their image. However public faith in the organisation could scarcely be lower at present following their at best indifferent response to the revelations of widespread human rights abuses and multiple deaths involving migrant workers on World Cup sites in Qatar. Indeed recent revelations that Jack Warner received bribes from Qatari officials in the aftermath of the successful Qatari bidding process have been met with a weary familiarity. Public perceptions of FIFA corruption and cronyism can scarcely be better summed up than by the allegations that certain members of the FIFA central committee were plotting to removal former FBI attorney and head of FIFA’s independent ethics committee Michael Garcia merely a week after his investigations of corruption around the Qatari world cup bid began. Jim Boyce, the British FIFA Vice President has even hinted that he believes the only reason the plot was halted was due to fears that Garcia’s removal would cast FIFA in an even worse light.

Whilst concrete evidence forthcoming from investigations into potential FIFA corruption is still piecemeal, the FIFA accounts released last week give us a clear view into the internal workings and mentality of the organisation. The opening line on FIFA’s official mission statement reads ‘develop the game, touch the world, build a better future’. Indeed FIFA’s justification for their hoarding of cash (with cash reserves standing at $1.43 billion at present) and demands for tax exemption and an extortionate cut of ticket profits from world cups is based on the idea that their job is to support and develop football in areas where it is needed. The figures do not back this up.  Since 2007 FIFA spending on football development has grown by $29m to $183m this year, a growth of 19% in this period. In a time of almost unprecedented economic recession this seems more than acceptable, generous even. Until you notice that in the same period FIFA’s expenditure on itself grew by a staggering $93 million to a massive $276 million, a jump of 51%. However it is when this figure is broken down that the true subversion of FIFA’s stated rasion d’etre is revealed. In 2012 alone FIFA spent an enormous $28 million on legal fees. Key management bonuses grew from $33.5 million in 2012 to $36.3 million in 2013. This shared between approximately 50 people in a year where FIFA’s reputation took an unprecedented battering. Nice work if you can get it. Finally, out of total expenditure of almost $400 million just $17 million was paid in tax, or around 3%. This remarkably represents an improvement, with FIFA only having paid any tax whatsoever since 2011.

Whilst allegations of corruption beyond the disgraced Warner and Bin Hamman remain mere allegations, the levels of cronyism, self-interest and naked greed abundant in the halls of FIFA’s shadowy Swiss headquarters are clear. These are not the accounts of an organisation dedicated, as claimed, solely to the development of football around the world and to using football as a selfless tool for wider social good. These figures, combined with the various corruptions scandals and the farce that was Sepp Blatter’s re-election to the FIFA presidency show that something is indeed rotten at the heart of FIFA. It is impossible to suggest that it is an organisation unfit for purpose but it is becoming increasingly clear that that those at the top are driven not by the love of the game, but by a love for money and power. The most depressing thing of all is that this is all merely confirmation of a situation most observers had already come to see as fact