In case you missed it BBC Newsnight has announced that FIFA was warned that the Nigerian team may have been vulnerable to fixing games at the 2010 South Africa World Cup.
They say that the UEFA investigator went to the FIFA Early Warning System and told them there were suspicious betting patterns on Nigeria games. They also claim that they were told that Nigerian players were alarmed by the conditions at the World Cup and that they were “vulnerable to corruption.” All this information was given to FIFA and their officials have responded by saying there is ‘no evidence of fixing at the World Cup.’
It is a good attempt at a difficult story and full kudos to the BBC for trying. But, here is what they don’t say:
First, FIFA’s early warning system is practically useless. They don’t investigate. They don’t protect the players. If you are a whistle-blower and you come forward to expose your fears, don’t expect protection and don’t expect the situation to improve.
Second, the Nigeria Football Federation has been so utterly incompetent for so long that many Nigerians have become desperate to close it down and start again. The Nigerian government got involved. Perhaps more tellingly, the great star Jay-Jay Okocha pleaded with FIFA not to pay the World Cup bonus to the Nigerian FA. His fear was that the money would disappear before it could reach the players.
The basic scenario that leads to corruption at World Cup tournaments is that many of the national football associations are so incompetent they cannot guarantee their players will receive any salary or bonuses for playing in the world’s biggest tournament. Until FIFA stops this exploitation, pays the players directly and establishes a proper investigative unit (as UEFA has), we can expect lots of these types of stories.