World football’s governing body rotten to the core, and not one fan of the game is in the least bit surprised.
The saga of Mohammed Bin Hammam’s expulsion from FIFA rumbles on in the corridors of FIFA house, up on a hill in Nyon. From the outside, they give a plaintive smile and a glance at the nearest security guard when pressed about the turmoil in recent months. Within, those brothers and sisters of the FIFA family know, deep down, that their time riding the golden goose like their own personal Lear jet is coming to a close.
The problem is that Mohammed Bin Hammam won’t go quietly. This was supposed to be a quiet removal, an assassination of quality and precision. In many ways it was – it seems like another lifetime in which MBH announced he was to run against The Beautiful and Infallible Leader, only to be forced into stepping down due to the ‘allegations’ of bribery against he and close companion Jack Warner. One minute, the football world was actually beginning to believe that Sepp Blatter’s astounding hegemony could be brought down, the next, we watched in awe as those who dared stand against the FIFA Fuhrer were swept up in damning, career crushing ‘allegations‘ of corruption. Blatter surely smiled as he looked at the ballot papers on that fateful day back in June, which contained only the name, ‘Joseph S. Blatter‘ and a box alongside.
Of course, as the only candidate, Sepp won the (s)election and later that day waltzed back to FIFA house with a grin on his face at the thought of that fantastic expense account he’d retained for another 4 years. At that time, MBH was probably fuming at home, plotting the various ways in which he would take his revenge. Jack Warner wasted no time, realising his chance to put the wind up the boys in the house on the hill, he suggested that a ‘football tsunami‘ would be unleashed in the coming months, even going so far as to release an email in which General Secretary Jerome Valcke suggested that Qatar had bought the 2022 World Cup. The football press went absolutely wild for all of ten minutes, FIFA became the buzz word in sports news and it all too briefly looked like we may still see the downfall of Sepp’s regime, in spite of the farce that was the election.
What emerged was that although Jack Warner might be more corrupt than Silvio Berlusconi’s accountant, he is no fool. He resigned from his post at FIFA shortly after Valcke had explained his Qatar related email as an expression of their financial wealth rather than a suggestion of corruption, and in doing so preserved his already tattered reputation. Deals were clearly cut behind the scenes and one of Fifa’s most astoundingly whitewashed press releases in their practically bleached history was sent out. Jack Warner had left his post, allegations against him were dropped, but most importantly, ‘the presumption of innocence is maintained.‘ The extent to which that phrase is completely laughable is difficult to measure, such is it’s proportion.
This man of ‘innocence’ was the same man that FIFA had punished only 5 years previously for illegally selling $1m worth of World Cup tickets through a company owned by his own son and the same man who asked for money for a friendly played against Scotland in 2004 to be paid directly into his bank account. FIFA knew both of these facts, they’d even made him give his million dollars from the World Cup tickets to a charity. But still, of course, the presumption of his innocence was maintained. Before we’ve even gone anywhere near Mohammed Bin Hammam’s story, this just goes to show what an incredible farce FIFA’s supposedly ethical organisation was and is, reinforcing what we all knew already – they are totally unfit to regulate their own affairs.
You might think that it sounds as if we’re leaping to the defence of Mohammed Bin Hammam from what has been explained of his tale so far. Let’s be clear – MBH was as corrupt as the worst of them and most of those with an interest in FIFA knew that well. The uncovering of those packages full of cash was no surprise, however the timing of it perhaps was. Given the mounting evidence from reputable sources with no axe to grind, like Lord Triesman (remember that? Seems like a minor blip for FIFA now doesn’t it?) it is clear to most that bribery and corruption are rife within football’s highest authority. So why was it then, that suddenly, from out of nowhere, corruption became visible? It certainly seemed coincidental, just before he was due to make the biggest challenge on Sepp in his history as president, suddenly Bin Hammam found himself mired in corruption, exposed and out on his own.
Suddenly he didn’t have the backing of his peers. Suddenly, people he previously trusted were not going cover for him any more. He thought he could buy the presidency just like Qatar had bought the World Cup, to quote a certain Jerome Valcke, in a certain email. How wrong he was – you know Mo, there’s a difference. By all means, buy a World Cup for an oil rich emirate, everybody’s going to get rich off that, especially with the outrageous tax breaks that FIFA demand when allowing someone else’s country to host their World Cup. The TV rights licences are gigantic, the money involved incomprehensible – line our pockets Mo, we’ll give you your World Cup and line everybody’s. But when it comes to Presidency, don’t even think about it. Who stands to gain from you bribing your way to power this time Mo? Not Sepp. Not Jerome. So why would they let you get away with it? Big mistake. They wouldn’t.
What we’re coming to here is that whilst neither Bin Hammam or Warner are saints, by any stretch of the imagination, they were operating as part of an organisation in which it seems that their underhand behaviour was endemic, even expected. Blatter realised that – he probably knew that they were going about seeking votes in this way and he saw an opportunity, two scapegoats with big time reputations to take the heat off him during this important election and remove the competition. A free ticket to another term and four more years with his hands on the reigns of the golden goose. That’s what led to the famous press conference, in which he absolutely denied the need for outside intervention, wanting FIFA’s problems to be sorted out from ‘inside the FIFA family’ to keep prying eyes off his and other members accounts. He knows as well as we do that if those ever emerge, he’ll be banged to rights like Bin Hammam and Warner were.
So what now? Like we said old Mo won’t go quietly, he’s been agitating FIFA’s ethics committee, sending letters to question the appointment of what he believes is a puppet leader of the investigation in Petreus Damaseb, a Namibian official brought in to take the case instead of the normal chairman of the committee Claudio Sulser, who MBH claims in his letter would have been less open to the intervention of Jerome Valcke and Mr. Blatter. The reasoning Blatter and Valcke gave for the decision is also bizarre – that Sulser is Swiss, like MBH’s former Presidential rival Blatter, thus they claim he is inappropriate. Mo’s letter made no difference, his appeal against his life ban was lost anyway, to no great surprise or chagrin on his part. He is now taking his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, an independent body, which is hopefully where things might start to get interesting. Mo even admitted on his website he’d asked the Appeals Committee at FIFA to simply give him a no immediately, so that he could stop wasting time and go straight to the CAS, such was his faith in FIFA’s justice system.
That is perhaps the most damning aspect of all of this – even a former FIFA delegate, the ex head of the Asian Football Federation, has zero faith in their particular brand of fairness. Perhaps that should be the yardstick by which we measure this episode in FIFA’s history. Want a fair trial? Justice? The presumption of innocence maintained? Go quietly or face the consequences.