A week or so before the World Cup in Qatar, Netflix released a four-part docu-series FIFA Uncovered focusing on the corruption that has riddled football’s number one organisation.
FIFA’s ‘modern era’ began in 1974 when the first non-European president was elected, Brazilian João Havelange, ousting the Englishman Sir Stanley Rous.
Until then FIFA had been a small non-profit organisation with limited resources. In 2021 FIFA’s revenue amounted to $766 million and in the 2015-2018 business cycle had cash reserves in excess of $2.7 billion.
From the outset, Havelange set out to take advantage of FIFA’s huge potential and transformed it from an organisation that just held WC tournaments every four years to one of the most profitable businesses in the world.
The person who helped him achieve all this was Swiss sports administrator Joseph Sepp Blatter, who Havelange appointed first as technical director and then as general secretary.
The overly ambitious Blatter was not one to play second fiddle, and finally found a way to remove Havelange and head FIFA for the next 17 years (1998-2015) until an FBI investigation into wire fraud, money laundering and racketeering brought his tenure to an abrupt end. Though not officially charged by the FBI, Blatter was finally pressured into resigning after it was leaked that he had made a ‘disloyal payment’ to former president of UEFA Michel Platini for services rendered seven to eight years before.
The second part of the series looks at how Russia and especially Qatar won the 2018 and 2022 bids respectively. In both cases other countries were the strong favourites (England in 2018 and the US in 2022) but somehow the underdogs won the bids.
Both before and after the 2022 World Cup voting in 2010 brown envelopes with wads of cash were exchanged, countries (France, Thailand, Brazil) suddenly signed lucrative deals with Qatar but the icing on the cake came in 2011. Even a Cypriot gets a mention in the voting scandal.
That year, Qatari football strongman Mohamed bin Hamman (then President of the Asian Football Confederation) challenged Blatter for FIFA’s presidency. However, he was caught red handed exchanging cash for votes with FIFA’s Executive Committee members and an internal investigation began as to whether Qatar had ‘bought’ votes to host the World Cup as well.
According to the series Qatar’s Emir intervened, bin Hamman withdrew his candidacy and Blatter who was elected for another term although he suddenly went quiet.