Sport Football The FIFA scandal: our five-minute explainer
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The FIFA scandal: our five-minute explainer

Getty, Sepp Blatter, FIFA
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FIFA is coming apart at the seams, with top officials arrested and president Sepp Blatter announcing his resignation on Wednesday.

It’s the biggest scandal the world’s biggest sport has ever seen. But this cataclysm has been a long time coming.

Blatter resigns from FIFA amid fresh allegations 
• Calls for Frank Lowy to resign

Get across all the controversy with our five-minute explainer.

What is FIFA?

The organisation that controls world football and, most importantly, where the World Cup is played every four years. It’s made up of 209 national football associations, divided up into six confederations: UEFA (Europe), South America (CONMEBOL), Africa (CAF), Asia (AFC), North America (CONCACAF) and Oceania (OFC).

Who is Sepp Blatter?

FIFA’s eighth president, Sepp Blatter has presided over the body since 1998 when he succeeded Joao Havelange. The Swiss man was formerly a public relations (!) executive with watch manufacturer Longines. Under his watch football has grown markedly in Asia and Africa, as have the revenues gained by the World Cup. The developing nations were overwhelmingly in favour of retaining Blatter, while traditional powerhouses Europe and South America have wanted him gone for years.

Why does everybody say he/they are corrupt?

Corruption allegations have dogged both FIFA and Blatter for years, but the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in 2010 prompted the English FA to table allegations of bribery of two of the members of FIFA Executive Committee. A whistleblower from the Qatar bid declared money was paid to the Executive Committee in order to buy votes, and the pressure on the dam wall has slowly been building from there. Click here for a timeline of events.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke. Photo: Getty
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke. Photo: Getty

Why is this coming to a head now?

Last week top FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich for corruption over a period of two decades. The US attorney general alleges FIFA officials received millions of dollars in exchange for votes for South Africa to host the 2010 tournament. There is also a separate Swiss investigation into the awarding of the 2018 tournament to Russia and Qatar’s 2022 tournament.

On Tuesday it emerged that Blatter’s top lieutenant, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, was allegedly aware of a $10 million payment to former CONCACAF boss Jack Warner, one of the men arrested last week.

On Wednesday Blatter announced his resignation as FIFA president.

Where to from here?

The FBI is reportedly looking into Blatter’s own involvement in corruption. However, the organisation’s short-term future is unclear.

Blatter will remain in charge (for perhaps as long as 10 months) while an election for a new president is organised. A clear favourite for Blatter’s successor is unclear, but UEFA chief Michel Platini, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, Dutchman Michael van Praag and former Portuguese star Luis Figo are in the frame.

In the meantime, the game will go on as it has always done.

Suggested reading:

FIFA’s Long Game, from The New York Times
A hero of the FIFA Corruption Expose from The Guardian
The Human Toll of FIFA’s Corruption from The Washington Post

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