Tag Archives: scandal

Blatter’s Out. Now What?

We don’t know precisely why Sepp Blatter, who sealed reelection last week in typically blatter resignationdefiant fashion, chose today to resign as FIFA president. Was it the New York Times’ report on the involvement of Jerome Valcke, Blatter’s second in command, in a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme? Or the growing possibility that the US Justice Department will include the under-fire Swiss in its next round of indictments? Or was Blatter merely concerned that his troubles would distract fans from all the hot players in “feminine clothes” at the upcoming Women’s World Cup?

Whatever the reason, Blatter’s resignation is great news for soccer fans. But don’t get too excited. The front-runners for his soon-to-be-vacant position include the ringleader of the Qatar 2022 caucus and a member of the Jordanian royal family.

UEFA president Michel Platini, the oddsmakers’ favorite to succeed Blatter, called for FIFA to enact sweeping reforms just hours after the DoJ announced its corruption charges. This from a guy who lobbied hard to bring the World Cup to Qatar – where stadium construction has already cost hundreds of lives – possibly in return for a series of political favors.

The other leading candidate, Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, lost to Blatter in last week’s election, despite promising to crack down on corruption. But, as Guardian writer Marina Hyde tweeted last Friday, “If he likes elections so much maybe they can have one in Jordan?”

There’s still hope that sanity will prevail. David Gill, the former chief executive of Manchester United, and Michael van Praag, the experienced head of the Dutch Football Association, are both competent administrators unblemished by accusations of corruption. Even Luis Figo has a few smart ideas.

But frankly, I wouldn’t vote for any of them. Soccer journalists have been writing about Blatter’s corrupt regime for almost two decades. So I’d like to take this opportunity to formally endorse Grant Wahl for FIFA president.

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Richard C. Scudamore: Man of the Year

Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore calls the league’s gargantuan new TV deal “a scudamoresuccess story” that will ensure football continues to be one of Britain’s most popular cultural exports: “The Premier League, the BBC, the Queen – they are things that people feel are good about the UK,” Scudamore said.

But it remains maddeningly unclear whether the deal, which also promises to enrich club owners and attract foreign investment, will help resolve any of English football’s long-term structural problems: skyrocketing ticket prices, decrepit grassroots infrastructure, the embarrassing income gap between celebrity players and “nonessential” club employees.

For his part, Scudamore, who came under fire last year after the Sunday Mirror published sexist emails he’d sent to a lawyer friend, has made it pretty clear that he couldn’t care less about the plight of the working class. According to the Guardian, “Asked whether it made him uncomfortable to see clubs paying some players ‘half-a-million pounds a week’ while other members of staff earned below the living wage, Scudamore said: ‘No, it doesn’t make me uncomfortable.’”

What a guy.

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Violence, Corruption and the UEFA Coefficient: The Decline of Serie A

On Tuesday night, Udinese, the third best team in Italy, lost their Champions League qualifier to Braga on penalties. The result leaves just two Italian teams, AC Milan and Juventus, in the 32-club pool that kicks off Europe’s premier competition next month. Ironically, the penalty miss that effectively eliminated Udinese was a failed “Panenka,” a disastrous rendition of the technique that Andrea Pirlo executed perfectly in Italy’s penalty-shootout win over England at Euro 2012. Italy’s sweetest international moment since the 2006 World Cup resurfaced only to underline the symbolic culmination of years of domestic decline.

Of course, decline is a relative term. If you offered the current state of the Serie A (millions of viewers, still producing top-class players) to even the most fiercely optimistic fan of MLS (thousands of viewers, still producing a whole lot of rubbish), he would take it in an instant. But after years of constant success, Italy’s predicament feels a whole lot worse than anything MLS has ever had to cope with. Consider this: in the last seven years, Serie A has been rocked by two high-profile match-fixing scandals, the most recent of which brought league-championship-winning manager Antonio Conte a ten-month suspension. Two years ago, Italy dropped below Germany in the UEFA coefficient rankings and lost a Champions League spot. Inter Milan, European champions in 2010, finished sixth last season. This year, Portugal is sending three representatives to the Champions League, while Italy is sending only two. Meanwhile, in Spain, Barcelona is producing epic, era-defining football, and the national team is winning World Cups. In July’s European Championships final, Spain beat Italy 4-0.

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