Banning Blatter won’t stop corruption in sport

22 December 2015 9:39 am

So the big news is that FIFA has banned President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter and European soccer boss Michel Platini for eight years over an unauthorized 2 million-Swiss franc ($2 million) payment.

In its statement, the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA’s Ethics Committee said neither showed a “commitment to an ethical attitude, failing to respect all applicable laws and regulations”.

The move effectively ends Blatter’s presidency and delivers a blow to Platini’s chances in February’s elections for FIFA’s top job.

As The Guardian explains, Blatter made unholy pacts with the multiple crooks in the executive committee who supported him. They included Jack Warner, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) president, now banned from football for life and indicted by US authorities for alleged corruption; Nicolás Leoz, the former South American Confederation (Conmebol) president who took bribes from ISL and is now also indicted in the US; Ricardo Teixeira, president of the Brazilian Football Federation who also took ISL bribes and who has been indicted and the Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam, Blatter’s principal backer in 1998, now also banned for life from football following corruption allegations.

Blatter, who has protested his innocence pointing to FIFA’s arcane committee processes, has told a press conference he will appeal the decision. His last words on leaving the conference were "I'll be back."

Considering Blatter turns 80 next year, I wouldn’t be holding my breath. This is end of Blatter.

But will it solve anything? The corruption at FIFA is bigger than Blatter.

The bottom line is that corruption in sport has other drivers. One is the needlessly pharaonic scale of mega sporting events. For kleptocratic regimes such as that of Russia—the venue of last year’s ludicrously costly winter Olympics and, on current plans, of the football World Cup in 2018—these are superb opportunities to embezzle public funds. Then there is the vast sums of money pouring in from marketers and broadcasters. Added to that is the under-regulated globalisation of gambling, and its exploitation by match-fixers and money-launderers. Worldwide fan bases and the Internet have made it more rife and much more lucrative, attracting serious mafiosi from Asia and eastern Europe. Think of the dodgy betting in cricket.

The bottom line is that there is a nexus between corruption in sport and broader crime and corporate malpractice. FIFA is only one example and getting rid of Blatter is just a start.