It is difficult to overstate the incestuous world of FIFA. The place is a little like the Palace of Versailles in 1789 before the sans culottes dropped by: a closed, secretive place full of would-be Marie Antoinettes who do not one care about the media or public opinion. What we have seen in the last few days is unprecedented. The internal betrayals and media exposures by these top executives is extraordinary. A few thoughts on the story – journalists who are reading this note, please feel free to quote them in any of your articles:
1) The e-mail of Jérôme Valcke, the second in command at FIFA, to Jack Warner is astonishing. In the e-mail, Valcke states that he thinks that the Qataris bought the World Cup decision of 2022. This is very big news and cannot be underplayed in any way. If Valcke meant what he said, and there is no reason to suspect that he did not, this World Cup decision must be investigated. The decision of where to host the World Cup is the biggest in the sports business. It must be both clean, and seen to be clean.
2) Where are the sponsors? These scandals are deeply embarrassing. FIFA is in many ways the house that Adidas built. When will their senior executives, or Coke or Visa or any of the other large corporations who fund FIFA, intervene? They have to make a stand otherwise their money becomes tainted by an organization that, at this moment, has little credibility.
3) Where is Michel Platini? Here is an idea. Sponsors – get your act together – send a note to Platini and ask him to stand at the election. If you cannot get Platini ask a Noble Peace Prize winner – Lech Walesa, Martti Ahtisaari or even Al Gore. But get somebody with credibility and integrity who can step in and be a caretaker leader of FIFA until the football world gets its act together.
4) Finally, congratulations to Jens Weinreich and Andrew Jennings, they have been investigating and publishing stories on FIFA for over a decade. Few in the sports journalist community have wanted to believe them. They have been proved absolutely correct in their general assessment of the organization and some of its executives this week.