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Sorry Soccer

New allegations of corruption underline the need for change in FIFA

On June 1 the U.S. Soccer Federation, England's Football Association and some 200 other national soccer governing bodies are slated to vote in the FIFA presidential election. They should take the moral high ground and abstain instead of voting for the incumbent, Sepp Blatter, or his Qatari challenger, Mohamed bin Hammam, another FIFA insider. The reason is simple: FIFA does not have a reputation as a clean organization, and neither candidate supports the change that is needed.

The latest allegations of FIFA corruption came last week in a U.K. parliamentary inquiry into England's failed 2018 World Cup bid. Former FA head Lord Triesman accused four members of the 24-man FIFA executive committee (which votes on World Cup hosts) of improper and unethical behavior. Triesman alleged, among other things, that Trinidad and Tobago's Jack Warner demanded $4 million for an education center in Trinidad and that Paraguay's Nicolàs Leoz asked for an honorary knighthood. Also, two reporters for The Sunday Times testified that a "whistle-blower" within the Qatari World Cup '22 bid told them that two other FIFA ExCo members, Jacques Anouma of Ivory Coast and Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, were paid $1.5 million each to support Qatar's bid.

All allegations were denied by the FIFA ExCo members and the Qatari organizers, and without additional evidence it's unlikely that anyone will face punishment. (FIFA has announced an inquiry.) But the episode only adds to the stench that has surrounded FIFA for years, one that has become acute in the wake of the controversial decisions last December to award World Cup hosting rights to Russia (in 2018) and Qatar (in '22). Blatter and Bin Hammam maintain that FIFA is not corrupt, although two FIFA voters were suspended for trying to sell their World Cup votes last fall.

Most observers expect Blatter to be reelected, but U.S. Soccer and others can still make a statement by abstaining from the entire sorry mess.


An Australian Rules football player with a spiked Mohawk was sent off for 15 minutes during a recent match by an umpire who misinterpreted a league ban against dangerous items.



STILL IN THE GAME Despite last week's parliamentary inquiry, Blatter appears headed for reelection as FIFA head.