Washington/London: Following the arrest of seven FIFA officials in Switzerland on Wednesday on corruption charges and the US attorney general indicting 14 people, the international media is demanding that the world football’s president Sepp Blatter immediately resign.
“This time, FIFA should not be allowed to pretend that the problem is a few corrupt officials,” the New York Times said in an editorial on Thursday headlined “FIFA’s corruption stains world soccer”.
“A first step is the immediate ouster of Mr. Blatter and the restructuring of FIFA. The selection of Russia and Qatar (for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups) should be subject to rigorous re-examination. Short of convincing proof to refute evidence of misconduct in the Qatar decision and swift action to improve the conditions for foreign workers, that award should be withdrawn,” it said.
On a more sarcastic note, it stated: “FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, has always hoped to get America more involved in their sport. Well, they’ve succeeded. In a sudden and stunning move, the (US) Justice Department charged 14 soccer officials and sports-marketing executives with ‘rampant, systemic and deep-rooted’ corruption.”
The Washington Post, in an editorial, stated that “FIFA’s decisions affect large quantities of the world’s scarce resources”, including the resources of countries with priorities even more pressing than sports.
“So it is entirely proper, and laudable, that Attorney General Loretta Lynch has issued an indictment officially alleging what had long been rumoured: FIFA is a cesspool of corruption and bribery.”
According to the Post, this is a good time to end the career of Blatter, “who has reigned over the organisation, and distributed its revenues, since 1998”.
“At this point, he is in the position of protesting that he had no idea what they might have been up to all these years – and that is not a good position,” the editorial stated.
The Wall Street Journal headlined its editorial “Least surprising indictment ever” and wondered: “A global organisation generates billions of dollars in revenue and doesn’t have to answer to shareholders or to the voters of any country. What could possibly go wrong?”
It pointed out that the case revolves around the fact that FIFA officials allegedly took over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in return for awarding the hosting, marketing and media rights to various soccer tournaments, including the World Cup.
“We have to admit we’ve often wanted to indict some players in World Cup matches who pretend to be fouled and fake injuries, but the indictments revealed Wednesday suggest a far-reaching corruption that threatens the sport,” the Journal stated.
“Kudos to the Justice Department and new Attorney General Loretta Lynch for collecting the evidence for a case against an outfit long suspected, but rarely challenged, by law enforcement authorities overseas.”
In its editorial, British daily The Guardian viewed Wednesday’s events as “football’s game-changer”.
“Outside the FIFA bubble, there was nothing unexpected about what happened on Wednesday. The only surprise is perhaps that it has taken so long,” it stated.
“But, thanks to good investigative journalism, there has been little secret for years about the high-living corruption of the self-perpetuating freemasonry that is FIFA.”
According to The Guardian, Blatter, a Swiss citizen, is sitting “atop this steaming mound of graft”.
“He may indeed be calm. But he is finished. Either he goes or FIFA collapses — or perhaps both.”
Another British daily, The Independent, said in its editorial: “The crisis at FIFA after top officials are charged with corruption offers hope of long-deferred radical reform.”
According to the daily, though the American criminal justice system can be criticised for its high-handedness, fondness for publicity and broad claims of extra-territorial authority, its indictment of 14 individuals on corruption and fraud charges “has rendered a signal service to football fans everywhere — by setting in motion the desperately overdue cleansing of the gigantic Augean stable that is the governing body of the world’s most popular sport”.
“By coincidence or otherwise, the (US) Justice Department chose to make its indictments public just 72 hours before the election of FIFA’s president, in which the incumbent – the 79-year-old Sepp Blatter, in office since 1998 – is running for a fifth term,” the editorial commented.
It pointed out that Blatter was expected to win with support from Africa, Asia and North America.
“Mr. Blatter himself has not been charged and even those officials facing extradition deserve the presumption of innocence. Even so, it seems inconceivable that the election can go ahead as planned,” The Independent said.
“In any other business, the autocratic Mr. Blatter would long since have gone, following this latest evidence that the organisation he heads is utterly incapable of policing itself.”