FIFA and the Price of Corruption

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This week, everyone was expecting a parade of corruption coming out of the world’s international football association, FIFA. Friday is set to be another glad-handing, palm-greasing electoral victory of serial villain Sepp Blatter, who has run without running (having no manifesto and refusing to debate) for a fourth term as president after reneging on his promise to retire. This sort of underhanded backroom dealing has marred FIFA for decades, an organization seems to be particularly immune to punishment.

What a surprise, then, to wake up on Wednesday to a perp walk featuring several high ups from the Fédération  — as high as a current and a former vice-president — courtesy of the Swiss and US governments. The charges are still fresh, and the pleas of innocence are still coming out, but it seems FIFA may have finally taken a bribe they can’t cover up.

The shouts, sighs and rolling eyes about America’s overstepping its authority or its misplaced sense of justice in going after a sports organization when it lets banks off with (relatively) small penalties suggests we need to reexamine exactly who FIFA is and what it has done to so very much deserve this.

With that in mind, I’ve assembled some numbers to show the price of FIFA’s corruption, so far as we know it to date:

14 — number to date of individuals indicted by the US in their case against FIFA, almost certain to increase

$110,000,000 — the amount of bribes the US alleges took place just around the CONCACAF office for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa

$5,720,000,000 — the amount of revenue the 2014 World Cup brought in

$1,520,000,000 — the amount of cash FIFA has in reserve to keep its “independence”

$200,000,000,000 — the amount Qatar plans to spend on the 2022 World Cup

69¢ — the wage per hour of a Qatari migrant worker

2,000,000,000 — the number of migrant workers earning that wage

4,000 — the number of migrant workers expected to die building the infrastructure for Qatar’s World Cup

$12,700,000,000 — Russian budget for the 2018 World Cup, considered too low now, resulting in the use of prison forced labor

???? — the total cost in bribes and favors to send the World Cup to Russia and Qatar

It’s more than fair to argue the US and other nations have been deliberately lax in their prosecution of banks and governmental corruption closer to home. But to argue FIFA doesn’t deserve this would be to ignore those numbers above. There are certainly banks as dirty as FIFA, but that doesn’t excuse the federation of international football associations from its crimes.

We should applaud America for using its reach for something so worthwhile. There are worse villains in the world, but none will mourn if we manage to slay this one first.

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