14 Sep 2015

Fifa: don’t think it’s all over, there’s more to come

The most interesting thing to emerge from today’s Fifa briefing by a country mile – there is more to come.


Perhaps we take the words of the US attorney general too literally but Loretta Lynch is a lawyer, and lawyers aren’t known to be loose of tongue.

She would not reveal whether or not outgoing Fifa President Sepp Blatter is a target of theirs, but she hinted at what may be round the corner.

“I’m not going to comment”, she said, “on individuals who may or may not be the subject of the next round of arrests”.

So that’s that then. “The next round of arrests” does not leave much to the imagination. Especially not from the most powerful public prosecutor in the world.

13 of the 14 football officials indicted last May are now under arrest – with three of them arraigned in the USA already. The other 10 face extradition proceedings from either Switzerland – where seven were arrested last May – or in the case of say Jack Warner, his home in Trinidad.

But Sepp Blatter, well, his name came one document closer to being added to this list after a contract surfaced over the weekend that apparently bears his signature. A contract the Swiss Attorney general is now looking into. That approves the selling of regional TV rights for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups to his former buddy Jack Warner – at an astonishingly knock down price.


Why does it matter, one asks? Well it’s more apparent evidence of how football’s bigwigs bilked the system to help themselves – while real fans of the game paid dearly. TV sports rights are hardly the sexiest of topics but the graft starts to matter when you consider the consequences. Warner snaffles them for a pittance and well below market rates – then sells them for a massive profit – reportedly raking in close to a 2000 per cent profit. And if one believes the handwritten scrawl on the Fifa headed contract – with the blessing of football’s beleaguered commander-in-chief.

And the money to finance a 2000% profit – a pattern that US prosecutors believe happened time and time again in country after country – has to come from somewhere. It comes from the millions of television viewers whose subscriptions end up lining the likes of Jack Warner’s pockets. And it comes from cash-strapped broadcasters in, for example Jamaica, who divert resources to secure sky-rocketing sports rights – away from developing their domestic industries and expensive but important local news coverage.

In 1998, the two Jamaican terrestrial broadcasters paid around $100,000 to screen France 1998. Jamaica is the biggest single TV market in the Caribbean. Fast forward to 2005 – when Warner would buy the rights for South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 for $600,000 and sell them on across the Caribbean for an eye watering $20,000,000.

The upshot is a pyramid that makes it more expensive for everyone. Unless, of course, you have positioned yourself at the top.

Now as Loretta Lynch said, quite clearly this afternoon, she had nothing to say right now “on individuals who may or may not be the subject of the next round of arrests”.

But this afternoon Fifa’s one time anti-corruption advisor said enough was enough. There is “prima facie evidence”, according to Professor Mark Pieth, of embezzlement. And it was time to investigate Sepp Blatter, the man who’s run world football for decades.

Follow @kemenzerem on Twitter.