Fighting Corruption in Football – Lennart Johansson Accuses
Football politics is a dirty game. In an interview with the Danish magazine “Tipsbladet”, Lennart Johansson, former president of UEFA, accuses FIFA president Sepp Blatter of corrupt behaviour – accusations which have often been echoed by other sources and media.
One of the accusations addressed in the interview is the story of how it was Blatter’s manipulation that cost Johansson to lose his post as president of UEFA to Michel Platini in 2007. According to Johansson, Blatter convinced him to run for presidency again causing Johansson’s friend, Franz Beckenbauer, to refrain from entering the race. However, come election time Blatter instead openly endorsed Platini. “When I asked him why he first asked me to stay and then endorsed another candidate he simply answered “That’s life” and then laughed” says Johansson.
“Blatter does not know what Fair Play means” Johansson argues. And the fact is that during Sepp Blatter’s reign FIFA has faced several cases of abuse of power and corruption. Some of these have been so obvious that FIFA have been forced to act on them, while others remain uninvestigated. However, Johansson argues, it is difficult to fight corruption if you don’t have solid evidence, and sometimes there is nothing you can do.
“When you have fought against these powers for many years you get tired. You feel that it is no use addressing the matters when it doesn’t make a difference anyway. But you must not give up” Johansson states.
Play the Game has called on the international sports associations to establish an independent international body along the lines of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) that can investigate and fight corruption in the big sports associations such as FIFA. Johansson supports this idea.
“Football would like to take care of things itself, but it is obvious to the surrounding world that it is not able to do that. There are professionals who are good at investigating and finding irregularities. When you are in the middle of it, you might not be able to see the irregularities, and when you have been elected, you have accepted the conditions” says Johansson. He argues that even though establishing such an international anti-corruption body might be difficult, it doesn´t mean that you shouldn’t try.