FIFA has always been at the epicenter of corruption, with regular accusations of bribery, embezzlement, vote-buying and kickbacks, but the allegations have never erupted into a full-blown international scandal until now. The U.S. indicted top FIFA officials yesterday on corruption charges alleging the 2010 vote awarding Russia the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 World Cup were essentially rigged.
Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, was quick to denounce the arrests and subsequent indictments as “another blatant attempt by the United States to extend its jurisdiction to other states.”
“Once again we are calling on Washington to stop attempts to make justice far beyond its borders using its legal norms and to follow the generally accepted international legal procedures,” said a statement on the website of the Russian foreign ministry.
Yet while Putin’s words should rarely be trusted or taken seriously, he does have some validity in questioning why a country where soccer is ranked far below other sports would stick its nose where it clearly doesn’t belong.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is fearlessly making the case a U.S. one given the accusations of conspiracy and plotting that allegedly occurred on American soil.
As CNN notes, Lynch made clear “the suspects planned their crimes in the U.S.; they used the U.S. banking system; [and] they planned to profit through schemes that targeted the ‘growing U.S. market for soccer.’"
While the U.S. government might be right to take down the corrupt organization, the reasoning might not be one strictly to uphold justice, but rather (as Putin asserts) steal Russia’s limelight and make the U.S. the ultimate soccer superpower.
Worldwide, soccer is a multibillion dollar sport with FIFA reaping the benefits. But now the U.S. wants a piece of that rich, rich cake.
With American sponsors, marketers and broadcasters pouring billions into the game, a drastically improved professional league and millions of dedicated American soccer fans, soccer in the U.S. is finally thriving, giving the country ample sway to shift the game in their favor.
Despite the economic hold, the U.S. is still not viewed as a strong football king. But with the recent Lynch takedown of FIFA, the U.S. might finally prove it has enough power to conquer the world’s most popular sport’s ruling behemoth. The haughty officials might have enough money, but not all the cash in the world could talk them out of human rights abuses and damaging public relations. Plus, Sunil Gulati, current president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, is part of the FIFA executive committee and has consistently advocated for reform within the organization. The U.S. leading the exposition of FIFA’s relentless corruption might not exactly be a sneaky way to snag the World Cup votes, but it is certainly an attempt to demonstrate the power and influence American companies, fans and law enforcement have over soccer and that the ball is in their court now, or should we say, on their field.