GetSportsFocus is presented by: Dr. Arthur J. Ting, MD – Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Surgery
by: Emily Compagno, @Compagn0 Legal/Sports Business Analyst and Host of “In the Zone”
It reads like a script, but it happened yesterday: Seven of the highest-ranking executives from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) were arrested at dawn in Zurich, Switzerland on charges that included racketeering, conspiracy, and corruption for extradition to the United States. FIFA’s voting members and delegates were in Zurich to vote for the federation’s new president (current president Sepp Blatter is seeking a fifth term in office). Two separate investigations are being conducted into FIFA, one by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (FoJ) and one by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) (whose indictments led to yesterday’s arrests).
The US investigation charges nine current/former FIFA executives and five “corporate executives” who are “alleged to have paid and agreed to pay over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments,” and focuses on the past. Meaning the US is concerned with the 2010 World Cup awarded location to South Africa, the 2011 FIFA presidential election, and notably: “[the] sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by a major U.S. sportswear company.” No names were named, but the two elephants flanking Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the press conference were clearly Nike, who has sponsored Brazil’s national team for almost 20 years, and Adidas, who has sponsorship throughout FIFA (and according to Politico, a long association with President Blatter).The Swiss investigation emphasizes “criminal mismanagement and money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 [Russia] and 2022 [Qatar] Football World Cups,” and focuses on the future. Meaning the Swiss investigation into the votes of the future World Cups might change where they take place – and as you read this, Russian president Vladimir Putin and sports minister Vitaly Mutko are being quite vocal about their innocence.
What do you need to know? The U.S. is being quite dramatic with this one – we love our flair regardless, but when the DOJ flexes its muscles on the world’s stage it means they are confident in their case and will be unwavering in penalties and plea deals. Pre-trial pleas are already set, including deals by two sons of an arrested executive. Organized crime is treated with a seriousness the Fed reserves for few types of crimes, and Acting US Attorney Kelly Currie stated publicly “International soccer needs a new start” – clearly courtesy of the US. Expect harsh penalties, expect a large volume of those accused, and expect the US to use these 14 men as examples to the world a zero tolerance for this level of corruption. Currie also stated, “Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.” Nike and Adidas: sleep with a nightlight.
The real fight will be between the Swiss FoJ and Russia and Qatar. You thought Mayweather-Pacquiao was the fight of the century? Stripping either (or likely, both) countries of their awarded World Cup locations will cause an uproar. The global following is fervent and diehard. Russia and Qatar will fight tooth and nail to keep them – hosting the World Cup is considered priceless. Here, however, apparently there was a price tag.