The sparkle’s gone

27 07 2010

The world cup ended over a fortnight ago and we can’t say we’ve missed it. You could quite plausibly argue that this was due to Le Tour and Bangor’s European adventure but there’s more to it than that.  Fans of the world cup will usually suffer two things as the tournament progresses and then ends; one, an emptiness when fewer games mean blank days and two, withdrawal symptoms. We felt neither of these sensations.

The main reason we didn’t feel an emotional loss was that we didn’t make an effort to watch a lot of this world cup. We watched some of it obviously but we had no desire to watch every game. Sometimes we couldn’t even be bothered watching Colin Murray’s highlights (no, really). When we managed to take an interest we liked some of it – Uruguay, New Zealand’s first draw, parts of Denmark’s play, smug Brazil not making the semi finals, the disappearance of car flags – but we let the world cup mostly pass by for a very good reason.

They say you should be careful of what you read. About a week and a half before the world cup started we finished reading a book called “Foul”. It was written  by the investigative journalist Andrew Jennings (we link to his website, “Transparency In Sport” on the right) and it reveals the sordid nature of world football’s governing body, FIFA. It wasn’t a pleasant read. FIFA didn’t like it either.

A veritable web of intrigue is documented within Foul’s pages. Some readers may come to the conclusion that the story reads like a low rent Bond film, however the villains in this story don’t possess the requisite imagination to be classed as truly evil. The more apposite image is a  low rent Austin Powers film. Their plan for world domination, is…………over football. They plan to extort a…………(little finger extends to corner of mouth followed by a close up)……… very comfortable existence out of football.

We should expect enlightened rule from sport’s governing bodies. They should uphold noble principles, like acting as the bulwark against the nefarious uses of sport for example. FIFA claim to perform these roles but unfortunately the reality is somewhat different.

Of course FIFA used to act in this noble way but the last FIFA President to use the modus operandi of enlightened rule was Sir Stanley Rous. Sir Stan left office in 1974. Sir Stan sowed the seeds of his own downfall because alongside his patrician outlook he had a traditional view of football politics; only South America and Europe had political power in world football. For example in the world cup there were 16 places and 15 of those were for European or South American countries. The rest of the world had to fight for one place.  Resentments were fertilised by this “accepted” outlook.

Unfortunately Sir Stan was up for re-election in 1974. By 1974 the process of decolonisation had broken up most Victorian empires. Football was about to feel their wind of change. Sir Stan might have been ok with a certain type of challenger. Unfortunately   Joao Havelange skillfully tapped into the developing world’s resentment. Joao promised democracy, change and fairness (Being a well-connected businessman he knew the value of football as well but he kept quiet about that part at this time).  Joao was loud and brash. Sir Stan was ponderous and complacent. Hence Joao’s campaign made Sir Stan look like the aging patriarch he was, hence Joao was elected and Sir Stan was unceremoniously dumped.

After getting his feet under the table Joao set to work. To be fair to him, Joao eventually came through with his promise. During his tenure the number of African and Asian participants in the world cup increased. This was mainly accommodated by enlarging the competition from 16 participants to 24 then 32. Also FIFA has awarded its age-group world championships to “smaller” countries (“smaller” countries are those that are considered unsuitable to hold the “proper” world cups.) This was not the limit of Joao’s work. He also brought forward the ideas he wasn’t too keen on broadcasting widely at the time of his election; Firstly, how to cover your back. Secondly, how to help the relentless progress of advanced capitalism.

In order to cover his back Joao needed networks. The first step in this was to build a power base within FIFA, consolidating his victory at the same time. Joao cynically built upon the gratitude of  the poorer members of FIFA – he gave democracy so he expected loyalty.

Joao introduced the logic of advanced capitalism by coming up with a solution,  a solution for a problem that didn’t exist. How do you improve football, the world’s most popular sport? You “sel”l football and football related products to the highest bidder. The business side of  Joao’s brain saw nothing wrong with this. Luckily he found many people who believed in the same ideology. These people  became his philosophical dynasty. Sepp Blatter and Jack Warner were two of the more notable members, there will be more about them later.

Joao wasn’t happy about the way FIFA earned their money, he thought they should be earning more. He thought they should be utilising the appeal of football more effectively. However he  needed help to spread the message. Luckily the person who helped his ascent to power (and plant the idea in the first place), Horst Dassler, was there to offer his expertise. Herr Horst was part of the family that owned Adidas, or in other words; very rich. Herr Horst had the requisite cold-hearted business acumen to sell the idea to everybody.

Herr Horst has form for helping things get done, for example, helping people into power. Herr Horst helped transform Juan Antonio Samaranch from Fascist Functionary to Olympic Statesmen. Here’s a naughty little photo of Juan the Fascist.

Herr Horst also helped Primo Nebiolo into the presidency of the IAAF.

As Herr Horst  had gone to a lot of trouble helping the leaders of the world’s three most powerful sporting institutions into power he thought he should gain something  too. He got something too; a big fat marketing contract and a slice of the profits were his prize. This quid-pro-quo attitude became the default attitude of FIFA from then on.  You start to see the power of the networks here too, FIFA’s president happens to be part of the IOC’s hierarchy too.

By the time he left office in the 1990s Joao had left a dynasty behind.  The destiny’s esprit de corps allowed FIFA’s sainted elite to claim their entitlement; generous expenses and luxury accommodation just for doing their job. Thanks to Joao’s new outlook the feathering of nests began. For the right person this gravy train only stops when they decide, if you happen to be as important as Joao you can ride on it forever, even after you’ve left office. As you read “Foul” you begin to see that the conduct of FIFA is corrupt beyond belief.

The main method of raising money for FIFA was charging for the privilege of sponsoring the greatest event on Earth. Ticketing and TV rights were also utilised as money making methods. With natural inflation the value of monies raised just went up and up. Sepp Blatter can justify this approach  because he can say that FIFA are doing their bit to help develop world football. The money FIFA makes is ploughed back into the game through the support of the poorer associations in the GOAL programme. Of course charity work is tiring so they need adequate recompense for their efforts.

They say the worship of money is the root of all evil but as you can see Sepp and the boys don’t think like that. To them money is the root of development and when money is combined with football it will bring peace, magically transform geopolitics and civil wars. Because FIFA’S elite view football is the panacea for the world’s ills they are willing  to mix with some pretty rum characters to help “football’s development”. But this is ok, they’ll tell you that “sport is above politics”. They are quite happy to be seen with the Argentina’s junta, Liberian war criminals or Nigerian dictators, just as long as people aren’t murdered whilst the elite is in conference.

The Joao and Augusto show

Look here’s Sepp with the renowned war criminal Charles Taylor.

Of course money is not only blind it greases the wheels of business. To put this another way; money, in the form of bribes,  props up the whole regime.  It started with Herr Horst and his marketing company ISL. After Herr Horst’s demise the organisation carried on with it’s work.

FIFA’s business model is adaption, they are willing to go to any lengths to protect their system. They must protect their system because they see themselves as the only fit and proper people to protect “football’s family”. The truth is different, murkiness clouds their self-proclaimed transparency. They claim to be democratic but like fixing elections. They are ethically clean but employ the PR mastermind who attempted to minimise the impact of the Bhopal chemical  disaster. They are transparent but  jettison members who could become too talkative about the inner-workings of the FIFA machine – “Get rid of Mr. Clean” for example.

The person that represents the apogee of the corruption is Jack Warner. He has built a personal fiefdom within his confederation. When he’s not trying to personally benefit from world cup ticket sales he’s bypassing the democratically elected members of his member associations in the Caribbean. His conduct;

– Jackie Boy is a man who treats his role as an administrator as the gateway to a gilded existence. Jack thought that he could get Nelson Mandela to visit Trinidad and Tobago (because South Africa needed votes for their bid to hold the 2006 world cup and you win votes by pressing the flesh). Jack thought that he should be treated as a Head of State, even though he’s a lowly football administrator.

– In 1996 Haiti’s representative was unable to attend a very important congress. Some of the decisions made in the conference would give Jackie Boy more power if they went his way but without Haiti there was one less vote for Jackie Boy. Hey Presto, someone from Jamaica’s entourage miraculously become Haiti’s representative, this new representative had full voting powers.

– If you had wanted a ticket for 2006 world cup Jack was the “go-to guy” as he seemed to have loads. He could sell you some them through his own company, and officially licensed partner. Unfortunately if you were a fan of Trinidad and Tobago, (the country that Jack purports to represent) you will have been out of luck unless you were very rich. This “legitimate” business made Jackie Boy a cool 500, 000 dollars. Some may call Jack a “ticket tout” because of this.

– We haven’t even mentioned the following;

– The worst thing – Despite all of this evidence, Sepp Blatter stands by his man (until recently?).

Therefore, when it comes to FIFA and their governance we’ll give them a wide berth. If all of the evidence wasn’t enough to put you off Sepp he has the gall to describe himself as “soccer’s last Romantic”. The sight of him at the opening game embracing Carlos Alberto Parreira with a look of “Hey you, we’re the same you and me, we’re footballers” put romance far from our minds, in fact in ended the Jet Set’s love affair with the world cup.

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30 11 2010
These people make you physically sick « Llandudno Jet Set

[…] of FIFA. If you’re like Jet Set the allegations won’t have come as a surprise, we’ve dealt with them before and most people should have an inkling that FIFA is corrupt. Andrew Jennings wrote […]

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