As the World Cup approaches, the worlds major networks lobby for contracts on television rights from FIFA and their respective football associations and Governments. With the FBI led corruption clear ups of 2015 still fresh in the memory across Latin America, all eyes will be on the legitimacy of the new Footballing Presidents put in place within The CONCACAF and CONMEBOL organisations. As firms jockey for contracts, we re-visit the corruption scandal that surrounded the most recent tournaments and the fall of the lead actors behind it.
It was almost 18 months ago that FIFA suspended the financing of the two footballing bodies tasked with managing Latin American football (CONMEBOL and CONCACAF). While there were numerous allegations, the principal factor in the decision was a response to FBI arrests and fraud accusations. These accusations targeted the very leaders of the organisations including Jack Werner and Jeffery Webb who at the time were president and ex-President of CONCACAF. To refresh our memories, The FBI assumed the role as the moral protectors of the beautiful game largely due to the head of American Football’s, Chuck Blazer, admission that he had accepted a number of bribes in the selection of World cup hosts between 1998 and 2011 having been found guilty of another corruption scandal. As part of his admission he agreed to assist in a large scale operation against other CONCACAF and FIFA representatives. The investigation ended in 39 arrests, 12 of who were from CONCACAF, while it was estimated that 68% of representatives from tat very organisation were corrupt.
The extraordinary and now much covered corruption of CONCACAF officials was unravelled from one particular deal which involved a $100m bribery scheme. The scandal centred around one particular company, Datisa, which since the scandal has completely disappeared from record with no trace of it’s history or existence appearing in any searches. Datisa was a joint project between three media Latin American media companies, Traffic group, Full play and Torneos. The infamous $100m was set to be divided amongst various leaders in exchange for the rights of the 2016, 2019 and 2023 editions of the Copa America. The scheme plus information from Blazer revealed the nature as to how for years officials had devalued the television rights of major sporting events in return for bribes has much hindered the development of football in the region often starving the poorest nations of key sources of funding.
The accused and their sentence
The corruption ran and undoubtedly continues to run into the lower ranks of the game however the major players involved in the television scandal were most of the major Players in North and Central American football as well as numerous media powerhouses.
Chuck Blazer: The man who started the chain of events died earlier this year having cooperated with the FBI to receive a reduced sentence of a lifetime football banning order as well as being stripped of a number of personal assets.
Alfredo Hawit, ex-President of Honduran football, was charged multiple counts of bribery along with racketeering conspiracy amongst other charges. The main charges related to Hawit exercising his influence as President in influencing liscensing contracts in exchange for cash while also having further charges for tampering with evidence and witnesses.
After being detained in Switzerland, Eduardo Li, president of Costa Rican Football, was extradited to the United states and given a life time ban from Football and given a house arrest sentence.
Jeffrey Webb, the man who was supposed to clear up the corruption following the dismissal of corruption kingping Jack Werner, continues to throw lavish parties and shows little sign of being effected by pending trial. Webb will most likely face a houst arrest as well as being stripped of a number of assets in addition to a lifetime ban from the game.
Julio Rocha López plead guilty in an American court to charges or racketeering and wire fraud conspiracy and is awaiting sentence.
Wiki commons/ FBI led FIFA arrests
The aftermath and the reform
The initial response to the scandal was batton down the hatches and continue mentality as Webee succeeded Werner with the television deals appearing just as devalued as prior to the Copa America scandal. However the involvement of European FA’s pressure on FIFA, it has demanded a period of change which in turn is beginning to affect the footballing periphery. Th immediate effect is that the Concacaf powerbase has shifted north with new Canadian president, Victor Montagliani, assuming power. At the very least this makes him more accountable to a fiscally competent law enforcement which Werner and Webbe never were.
Montagliani has also been entrusted with the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors of FIFA Ticketing AG, another area which has been historically abused by its occupier. Thus far the Canadian has talked a good game stressing the importance of footballing values over corporate ones while simultaneously trying to make corporate relations long lasting ones with partners who are prepared to reinvest into the game. This summer’s gold cup for example had nowhere near the amount of scrutiny and corruption claims ass the last one, both on the field and off it.
That being said, there are still many challenges ahead for Montagliani. The first will be preventing regional opposition to him due to the diversity of interests within the orgnisation. While he may lead the organisation, there is nothing to prevent national powers coercing with others to form obstacles and power blocks as these smaller national presidents have for decades been used to receiving a fortune in bribes and other forms due to the corporate culture with CONCACAF. The second is inevitably the strength of the media and sponsors who were implicit within the corruption scandals. These companies bare a significant part of the revenue for the organisation and still have immense structural power at their disposal. Although the TV licensing for this world cup are resolved, Montagliani will face his first major challenge under the public eye in assuring transparency of merchandising and sponsorship deals.