Fans of the beautiful game are reeling this morning after a handful of officials from soccer’s world governing body were arrested on corruption and conspiracy charges for allegedly lining their pockets with $150 million in bribes. One FIFA official even reportedly demanded that he be knighted in exchange for his vote for England to host the 2018 World Cup.
The U.S. Department of Justice says 14 total defendants are named in the 47-count indictment, which includes charges of money laundering, wire fraud, and racketeering. Among them are high-ranking officials in the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which is responsible for overseeing and promoting soccer worldwide.
Seven of the nine FIFA officials were arrested early Wednesday at the Baur au Lac, a luxury hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, as they gathered for Friday’s upcoming election of FIFA’s new president. FIFA’s current president, Sepp Blatter, was not named in the indictment, though he has been accused of corruption and financial mismanagement in the past. He is running for re-election against Jordanian Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein.
A spokesman for FIFA has said that the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will not be reconsidered, despite allegations that bribery was at least partially responsible for Russia and Qatar being chosen, respectively, to host the next two.
What changes will be necessary in FIFA’s organizational structure? How did the U.S. get involved in investigating an international sports federation? Might this motivate other countries to investigate FIFA? What effect could it have on other international sports federations, like the International Olympic Committee?
Steve Crossman, global football reporter for the BBC; he tweets @Steve_Crossman