Trecker: Soccer deserves better
Mohamed bin Hammam, Jack Warner and Sepp Blatter all answered ethics charges Sunday in Zurich over allegations that they either bribed or knew about corruption in FIFA.
The investigation snared both men who were standing for president — though bin Hammam, in a surprise, dropped out Sunday morning — and has left FIFA in tatters.
By the time you read this column - written on Sunday morning before I fly back to Chicago - you will know the results of this "tribunal." Whatever happens almost certainly will not go far enough.
The facts at hand have been repeated ad nauseum, but the bottom line is this: FIFA appears to both solicit and accept bribes freely; has members willing to turn a blind eye to the behavior of their colleagues; and act purely in monetary self-interest at the expense of the sport they are charged to protect. This makes a mockery of the statutes FIFA claims to live by, and has made their slogan, "Fair Play," a bitter joke.
The events of the past week have shamed all of world soccer, which looks not only greedy but vicious to boot. It is difficult to see how an organization that is so clearly at one another's throats can carry out desperately needed reforms, especially when the people conducting these investigations are so tarred by malice and ethical compromise.
In fact, it's not even clear if or how well FIFA actually wants to conduct these investigations. The whistle-blower who gave London's Sunday Times newspaper the latest story was supposed to testify over vote-rigging with regards to the World Cup bidding process. Yesterday, FIFA leaked to media outlets that the whistle-blower had "failed to appear." This appears to be untrue: in fact, the whistle-blower had been negotiating to appear for two weeks and was turned back by FIFA, then told that he or she should just submit an "anonymous statement" instead.
The latest accusations, that CONCACAF's Warner arranged to give Carribean delegates $40,000 each in cash to vote for bin Hammam, were apparently so shocking that American Chuck Blazer could no longer stomach it, and he blew another whistle. Longtime observers have sought a political motive for Blazer's actions, but the fact is, he displayed a courage long lacking in this outfit to stand up and say enough is enough.
But why did it take so long? It has been well and widely known for decades - not years, decades - that FIFA has a bunch of rascals and rogues, many with their hands out. The truth is, petty venality pervades world football. A small example: Yesterday morning, heading into the official UEFA hotel, I was greeted by some delegates and one harried porter. What was he carrying? Some fifty double-stuffed "goodie bags," the contents of which are destined to end up on eBay shortly.
Small stuff? Laughably so, but indicative of a culture that always has its hand out, is always playing an angle. It is a sickness, and it has to be stamped out.
A good start would be to clean house. The Olympics had their moment in Salt Lake City and responded by disciplining 20 members, bringing in a host of former athletes and new faces to run the organization. FIFA needs to do the same thing, beginning with barring Blatter, bin Hammam and Warner immediately and asking for help from club administrators and players. It should then follow up by reforming its code of conduct and re-opening what seems to be a hopelessly tainted World Cup bidding process.
Sadly, this is a bit like asking for a glass of water on Mars. At this point, I see no hope for the big changes that are truly needed. As a result, I see a crippled organization with no moral or social authority, reeling into the sunset.
This sport not only deserves better, it demands better.
Jamie Trecker is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League and the Barclay's Premier League.