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"I jump into a sand pit for a living"

Jonathan Edwards, World record triple-jumper

Football Corruption and lies

Return to the book list for this category.

John Sugden and Alan Tomlinson, London, Routledge, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-138-68173-6

The book is essentially a re-publication of a book previously published in 2003 as “Badfellas”, which has been topped and tailed and updated a bit. Already in the introduction, the authors set out their stall, that FIFA has run world football “from its offshore fortress in Switzerland, without transparency, democracy or accountability”. Note too that the authors were making accusations against FIFA 12 years before May 2015 when the US authorities, working with the Swiss, served indictments upon the FIFA Fourteen.

The book quotes former FIFA general secretary, Michel Zen-Ruffinen, that “FIFA is flawed by general mismanagement, disfunctions in the structures and financial irregularities”. The authors argue that Sepp Blatter took decisions and spent FIFA money with little or no accountability, either internally or to FIFA the Executive Committee. In fact, they suggest that: “Given the number and scale of charges against Blatter, if he had been the CEO of a multinational company he would have lost his job and gone to jail. Instead he was re-elected with an increased majority”.

Blatter’s strategy was to keep everyone happy with increased expense accounts and unaccounted for payouts of a million dollars to every one of its member football federations. The Goal project was an ingenious Blatter scheme for distributing money to national federations – “for the good of the game” but also for the good of his popularity and his chances of being re-elected! It is significant that Goal was run personally by Blatter, not delegated to confederations.

To be fair to Blatter and his predecessor, João de Havelange, they inherited a FIFA with no staff, no money and only one competition and turned it into a successful multi-million corporation. It is the corrupt manner in which they did it that is the issue. The book’s judgement on Sepp Blatter is that he acted “against the statutes, without transparency, as an autocratic, essentially unaccountable, dictator”. How did Blatter get away with it? He was sustained over five presidential terms by a lax Swiss regulation of non-profit organizations and a fearful, silent chorus of sycophants.

The book is generally credible – and the authors vindicated by subsequent events. However when they inform the reader what FIFA presidential candidate, Issa Hayatou, was doing in his hotel-room at 2.00am, when they were – I assume – not present, the authors seem to have let their imagination run wild.

The chapter on ticket touts – peripheral to the main argument – is interesting and makes the case that ticket touts in some ways represent an efficient means of distributing tickets at short notice. The authors also suggest that the reason ticket touts are necessary and flourish is again the incompetence of FIFA.

As this website is always unashamedly looking for a sport and faith angle, I was interested to read that Jules Rimet, after whom the World Cup trophy was named, had a strong Christian faith.

An important book on an important subject.



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