Let The Bribery Commence!

Friday, March 18, 2011 | View Comments
- Keith Hickey

It's once again that most wonderful time on the soccer calendar: FIFA Presidential Elections! Ambitions of a certain attention-seeking Sports Illustrated writer aside, there's only one challenger who has the oil-backed stones to take on incumbent scumbag Sepp Blatter, the Qatari head of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed Bin Hammam.
Bin Hammam announced his candidacy today, promising six reforms to the current FIFA structure:

* Will expand the FIFA executive committee to 41, including the president, and rebrand it the FIFA board.
* Will double FIFA member donations to $500,000
* Will support goalline technology and the use of two additional assistant referees in matches.
* Will increase funds in the FIFA goal project for developing nations to $1 million.
* Promises to decentralise bureaucratic FIFA administration.
* Will establish a FIFA transparency committee

Now, most of those seem well-intentioned and welcome, but let's put ourselves in the mindset of a FIFA voter. They'll look at those reforms and think "Irrelevant, MONEY, yawn, MONEY, that sounds nice, who cares." FIFA voters don't give a Robbie Findley about transparency or cutting down on red tape (and in truth, would probably be in favor of less transparency), but they do like the sound of that money.

Crucial in that proposal is the increase of funds for developing nations, also known as "the ones that are easy to buy." That $1.5 million goes pretty far in countries like East Timor, Turkmenistan, or Haiti. Hell, for a country like Montserrat (tied for 202nd place in the FIFA rankings, population of 4,600) that's enough to buy a brand new Nike uniform, cleats, and a ball for everyone on the island.

But of course, you're either dangerously deluded or adorably naive if you think that money goes to help soccer in those nations. These optimistically titled FIFA projects are nothing more than public bribes. In the vast majority of cases, the lion's share of that money goes straight into the pockets of whatever apparatchiks are running the local FA. Because that's how FIFA's feudalism works: The guys at the top take the biggest pieces of the pie, but ensure that some tasty crumbs fall down to the guys lower levels, who keep in line for the chance that they get lucky, support the right guy at the right time, and get a bigger piece.

If a government (i.e., the people who are ostensibly chosen representatives of the people of the nation) says "Hey, why don't you put some grass on soccer fields or hire some youth coaches," they get slammed by FIFA for government interference, and threats to suspend them from playing international football soon follow. FIFA can't allow its financial and legal immunity to be threatened by legitimate governments wondering where all the money is going.

And we're all getting taken along for the ride as a bunch of very rich middle-aged men get even richer off of our backs.

Now how did that get here?

Anyway, there's no way Ole Sepp is going to take this challenge to his power lying down. He was busy last month handing out some very nice $300,000 checks to every federation, in addition to a lump sum of $2.5 million to each of the six confederations. Because, you know, the $20 million Jack Warner stole from Trinidad & Tobago's 2006 World Cup team can't last forever.

But just look on the bright side, we may soon have a new president, that guy who is promising to give every little islet and tin-pot dictator one and a half million dollars. And he's also responsible for the 2022 World Cup being held in Qatar, following a voting process that was completely and totally above board and not motivated by personal greed and Qatar's lack of journalistic rights at all.
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