The Beautiful Game Takes an Ugly Turn: Sepp Blatter and the Disgrace of FIFA

One of the most infamous names in the world of sports, Sepp Blatter and the scandal surrounding his organization, FIFA, have seen a tremendous amount of media coverage over the last 18 months.  However, over the past week, the Swiss Criminal Authorities have filed several charges against Blatter including suspicion of criminal activity that has resulted in many key FIFA sponsors, including Coca-Cola and VISA, demanding for his immediate suspension.  These sponsors are calling for his presidency to be terminated immediately, instead of after his yearly term.  These sponsors bring FIFA over $billion every World Cup, and therefore are integral to the organization’s ability to organize these massive global events.  This dependence on these sponsors means that their ultimatum must be taken seriously and for the first time since 1989, Blatter’s stranglehold over the most coveted position in the world of soccer administration has seemingly slipped.

Blatter and FIFA both had their names dragged through the mud by journalists, after coming under a heavy amount of scrutiny in the months preceding the 2014 World Cup. Blatter in particular drew the ire of talk show host John Oliver. Oliver, a British satirist, did a segment on his show detailing the incredibly nefarious and shady workings of FIFA. This segment garnered an astonishing amount of attention and was constantly shared and re-posted on social media (has now been viewed just under 20 million times on YouTube). The video brings attention to FIFA’s financial dealings with respect to the 2014 World Cup held in Brazil, which saw FIFA net almost $2 billion dollars in profit at the expense of a struggling Brazilian economy and shined a light on how truly despicable of an organization FIFA was. FIFA implored the Brazilian authorities to build extravagant stadiums that cost billions of dollars they didn’t have, and then proceeded to collect all the ticket revenue from these stadiums over the course of the World Cup.         

In another reputation-damaging scandal, the bizarre awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar proved to be the final straw in the organization’s mismanagement, as many more questions regarding FIFA and its dealings began to arise.  Qatar is a nation that employs the modern equivalent of slave labor. The excessively poor conditions that these laborers must work in have already resulted in the death of thousands.  This scandal incurred a joint investigation by both U.S. and Swiss Government officials, culminating in the arrest of six top FIFA officials in May.  The crimes included fraud, racketeering, suspicion of accepting bribes and others. Through all of this, Blatter has still retained his position as president.  Even now, with the formerly tacit support of the multi-billion dollar companies turning against him, Blatter’s lawyer, Richard Cullen, explained that “while Coca-Cola is a valued sponsor of FIFA, Mr. Blatter respectfully disagrees with its position and believes firmly that his leaving office now would not be in the best interest of FIFA.” 

Despite Blatter’s resistance, it seems as though the stance of these corporations is representative of the world’s view of the organization. One can hope that FIFA’s image can transform from its associations with corruption and scandal to that of charity and unity.