PtG Comment 08.12.2010

England and FIFA - an unholy alliance

After the World Cup defeat to Russia, the British press is in the process of examining itself – or rather – of examining FIFA. FIFA is corrupt, is the conclusion of most Englishmen after Russia stole the 2018 World Cup from England and Qatar beat the U.S. for the World Cup in 2022.

As usual in the World Cup context, the English anticipated their triumpf, and as usual they place the blame on others when things go wrong. The question is what the English should complain about.

FIFA & Coe

Too many people have focused on the recent documentary, ‘FIFA's Dirty Secrets’, made by Andrew Jennings and BBC Panorama and dealing with corruption at the top level in FIFA. At best, this documentary was the last straw, but it is just a piece of the puzzle in the long-lasting hatred between England and FIFA.

The worst allegations against FIFA were made in 2007, just before England launched its candidacy for the 2018 World Cup. In the documentary ‘FIFA & Coe’, FIFA vice president Jack Warner was accused of walking away with money that should have gone to the players of Trinidad and Tobago. The claim came from the Chairman of the Scottish Football Association and was confirmed by the Trinidad and Tobago keeper, Shaka Hislop.

A critical light was also shone on FIFA's cancellation of the sponsorship agreement with MasterCard and the new agreement with VISA – which resulted in FIFA having to pay a large compensation to MasterCard.

Coe’s World

But the main focus was on Sebastian Coe – the man who secured the 2012 London Olympics. From 2006 to 2008, Sebastian Coe was the Head of FIFA's Ethics Committee. During this period, he did not bring a single (important) issue to the table. The accusations made in the documentary, which came just before he resigned as Chairman of the Ethics Committee, was that he had adapted to FIFA's corrupt habits in order to get the World Cup to England. If this was the case, he put his money on the wrong horse. Many people may be corrupt, but not everyone have the same amount of influence. If that was not the case and he was making an effort to shed some light on the troublesome issues, he must have been strongly opposed. Both options are in England's disfavour.

Congratulations, Putin!

There is little doubt that Jack Warner is good at dirty games. The last days’ revelations show that he, before the vote in Zurich, invited Vladimir Putin to Trinidad and Tobago to celebrate the victory – even though he just before the election promised Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron that they could count on his vote. Warner was not one of the two who voted for England. This has upset the English and for them it has been evidence that FIFA is corrupt. But is not that simple.

Boris’ change of heart

After England's loss in Zurich last week, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, revoked the invitation to FIFA to live for free at the prestigious Dorchester hotel. Johnson had invited the bosses of FIFA to this hotel during the Olympics as part of a campaign to get the World Cup. However, when the English withdraw the offer in disappointment over losing the World Cup host election, they show that they are willing to resort to bribery to get the FIFA top on their side. This way, the criticism of FIFA becomes hollow.

Labour beats Tory!

As a curiosity and a bit conspiratorially, it is interesting to note that when Sebastian Coe helped bring the Olympics to London it was with the support of and in cooperation with the Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Labour politician and London Mayor Ken Livingstone. When the decision of the World Cup was to be taken, the Tory politician Sebastian Coe was in league with the Tory Prime Minister David Cameron and Tory politician and London Mayor Boris Johnson. The question is whether Labor was just better at international scheming than the new Tory politicians?

FIFA - one of many

Many have wondered why FIFA is corrupt. This is a difficult question to answer. If we try to look a little beyond international sports organisations, we see that many international organisations are corrupt or have been accused of corruption.

A simple explanation is that in most international organisations, there are often many member nations that are undemocratic, and since every country has a voice it is possible for undemocratic countries to use undemocratic means to gain support for their causes or give their voice to others who pay well.

Thursday 9 December is the UN's international anti-corruption day. It will be interesting to see if FIFA will be an important theme of the day or whether Vladimir Putin will steal the spotlight with umbrella drinks on the beach in Port of Spain?

This article first appeared on Andreas Selliaas' blog 'Sportens Uutholdelige Letthet' on 5 December 2010. Follow Andreas' blog (in Norwegian) on