A Red Flag for FIFA

by Jeremy Loudenback

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week or binge watching the newest Netflix offering, it’s been hard to escape the worldwide pageant of soccer, nationalism, and celebration that is the World Cup.

photo credit: DeGust via photopin cc
photo credit: DeGust via photopin cc

But at a time when FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), the international governing body of soccer (or football, as the rest of the world calls it), should be basking in the fanfare of a quadrennial celebration of the world’s most beloved sport, the organization is beset by allegations of corruption, excess, and controversy.

To start, a recent report suggests that the vote to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar might have been influenced by millions of dollars in bribes. Ongoing investigations have already identified several prominent FIFA officials who have been tied to the controversy amid growing censure. And sponsors like Adidas, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, and Sony have raised concerns about the corruption allegations surrounding the organization.

But that’s not all for the scandal-plagued organization. Allegations of match fixing in South Africa four years ago and FIFA’s relatively lackadaisical response have highlighted the organization’s governance process. Headed by autocrat Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s leadership has been by marked by gross homophobia and sexism. And protests in Brazil have drawn attention to the record windfall that FIFA will reap from the tournament while leaving the host country with debt on the heels of generous tax-free benefits and other perks.

photo credit: IsakFotografi via photopin cc
photo credit: IsakFotografi via photopin cc

Last week Blatter announced he would seek a fifth term as FIFA’s president even as frustration with FIFA and its weak governance process runs high. Before disbanding, the FIFA Independent Governance Committee delivered a report on ways to improve the organization’s governance practices, but that may not be enough for many critics. Some are even suggesting the FIFA should be abolished, while others maintain that the way to clean up the sport should start with increased transparency at the national level or by having member organizations threaten to boycott FIFA unless reform and transparency measures are put in place. But long after a champion is crowned in Rio de Janeiro next month, the battle for good governance of soccer’s most powerful body will continue off the pitch.

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