Did Corruption Bring The World Cup To Africa?

FIFA, the soccer world’s governing body, has been accused of various corrupt practices, as has its controversial president, Sepp Blatter, who engineered the selection of South Africa for the 2010 edition of the event, which takes place every four years, like the Olympics. Rumors of bribery amongst African nations swirled at the time of Blatter’s election as FIFA president. The upcoming disinformation® documentary World Cup Soccer in Africa: Who Really Wins? also questions FIFA’s motives and whether the event will really benefit Africa. Now William Watts asks some tough questions of FIFA, at Marketwatch:

It may carry a lower profile than the International Olympic Committee, another controversial, Swiss-based international sports body. And to many Americans, Fifa, which stands for Federation Internationale de Football Association, means nothing alongside the likes of the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball.

But the overseer of international soccer captained by Joseph “Sepp” Blatter has repeatedly shaken off allegations of corruption and regional in-fighting as well as a global recession to become arguably the most powerful sports organization on the planet.

It’s all down to the World Cup — the quadrennial extravaganza that crowns the world’s soccer champion and is rivaled only by the Olympics as the most watched sporting event around the globe.

Blatter last month was able to brag that Fifa’s annual 2009 revenues passed the $1 billion level for the first time in its history, leaving the organization with a $196 million surplus.

SportCal, a London-based tracker of sponsorship and marketing deals, says Fifa is on target to see total revenues of around $3.4 billion over the current four-year World Cup cycle. That’s up from the $2.3 billion in revenues raked in during the 2006 World Cup cycle that culminated in the championship played in Germany…

Controversy

Fifa and Blatter are heavily courted by world leaders and dignitaries. Critics charge that Blatter’s ability to distribute largesse to member associations has helped him gain immunity from challenges to his role stemming from allegations of corruption within Fifa.

Blatter was first elected president of Fifa in 1998, in a contest surrounded by allegations that national delegates from African countries were bribed.

Controversy surrounded the 2001 collapse of International Sports and Leisure, a marketing firm that handled merchandising and stadium commercial rights for Fifa. The collapse put a strain on Fifa’s finances, though the exact size of the impact was never made clear.

Swiss prosecutors dropped a related criminal investigation into allegations of corruption against Blatter in 2002, clearing the way for him to win his second term at the helm of the organization later that year.

And Fifa suffered a bloody nose in 2006 when a U.S. district judge ruled that Fifa had breached a contract agreement with MasterCard and sharply criticized the organization’s business tactics…

[continues at Marketwatch]

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