1st UPDATE, Wednesday, 04.30 AM- FIFA reps have confirmed that a planned congress and presidential election scheduled for this Friday will still go ahead, as will the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar respectively. The rep also made clear that controversial FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who has not been implicated in the arrest of six top FIFA officials this morning in a Swiss hotel, will not be stepping down ahead of Friday’s election, which he had widely expected to win. His only challenger, Jordan’s Prince Ali, released a statement labelling the arrests as a “sad day for football.”
PREVIOUSLY, Wednesday, 00.17 AM.– Six top officials of FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, were arrested early this morning by Swiss authorities, acting in cooperation with the US Justice Department, on several serious corruption charges going back to the early 1990s. While the Justice Department has not released the charges, reports hold that they include wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, and involve suspicion of accepting bribes and kickbacks. The New York Times first reported the news.
The arrests, the climax of an three-year investigation, come just as FIFA is holding a contentious presidential election during the organization’s annual meeting in Zurich. The incumbent, Sepp Blatter, has run FIFA since 1998; during his tenure, FIFA has been riddled with accusations of corruption, most recently regarding the selection of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup. Indeed the problem is so bad that in December 2014, FIFA’s head of ethics resigned from the organization in disgust. Blatter’s opponent,Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, has positioned himself as a reform candidate.
Swiss Authorities confirmed in a statement that the investigation was conducted by US Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York. Charges are expected to be formally filed on May 28. Including the 6 officials arrested early this morning, nearly 15 officials are said to be named in the indictment. Jurisdiction is possible thanks to US Law, which allows authorities to file charges against any entity that holds a bank account in the United States.
FIFA does considerable business in the United States: TV revenues in the US generated $58 million for FIFA during the 2014 World Cup alone. But worldwide the take is even bigger, making FIFA worth billions. 90% of that revenue comes from television licensing and related marketing rights, but governments also spend enormous sums to become attractive as a World Cup host, and much more creating the infrastructure necessary to handle the games. It’s a recipe for tremendous potential corruption, as John Oliver memorably skewered last year, on Last Week Tonight.
Oliver also took on the upcoming FIFA elections and Blatter on the most recent edition of Last Week Tonight: