The football industry is corrupt. You know this, we all know this. The nature of the institutions who govern the sport, combined with the enormous amounts of money the industry is now worth, is a toxic cocktail.
A few minutes ago the Fifa Ethics Committee provisionally banned Fifa president, Sep Blatter, Uefa president (and Fifa vice-president) Michel Platini, as well as Fifa Secretary General, Jermoe Valcke, for 90 days pending an investigation. Former Fifa VP, Chung Moon-joon has been banned from the game for 6 years and fined. Chung and Platini both remain candidates to succeed Blatter as Fifa president – yes, it’s that dysfunctional.
This may be the beginning of the end for football’s great Oligarch Administrators, who lived like Saudi princes, paid for by the money which slushes around the game, but it is far from assured that football is now on the right path. Blatter, the embodiment of everything which is wrong with sport and business to many, remains a hugely popular figure. Some of the games administrators, themselves untouched by corruption, shed tears when he recently announced his decision to retire.
The core problem is one of democracy. Fifa is a democratic organisation, which on the face of it sounds like a good thing, but democracy has its drawbacks. One member one vote affords the British Virgin Islands the same weight when it comes to exercising ultimate control as Germany. Apart from hosting the World Cup once every 40 years or so, Fifa can offer Germany little tangible support, but the governing body can metaphorically pave the streets of tiny nations with gold.
Fifa executives, and Blatter in particular, have enormous patronage under their control. Blatter is personally responsible for the decision to ‘support the game’ in many small nations and protectorates, by funding the construction of expensive stadiums and facilities. These amenities are great for the recipient nations, often well beyond anything the local FA or government could afford. Blatter has been The Great Facilitator to many far-flung entities. That patronage buys loyalty and genuine affection.
The problem is not limited to the Fifa executive. Administrators at all levels of the senior game enjoy control over a degree of patronage. Merely becoming an office holder at your FA makes you a dignitary of some sort. There will be an expense account, doors will open, facilities made available.
Football’s problem is that its structure made it inevitable that corrupt individuals would eventually take control. Cutting the head off Fifa will not be sufficient to change that, the way football funds itself also needs to change – and that would inevitably mean less money going to poor places in the world. If accountability replaces patronage, Blatter’s largess to underfunded Associations would end. The game would be cleaner, but there are 100 FAs with skin in the game who stand to lose, so assume nothing.
Take a look at the work of Joseph Gormley, a Scots-born artist in the US, who has raised over $170k for various charities. His is another great tale in the story of the Celtic support.