TIME Soccer

Watch Former FIFA Exec Jack Warner’s Rambling Video Response to John Oliver

Complete with dramatic music

The ongoing FIFA corruption probe is a source of scandal but also comedic material, intentional or otherwise.

Last Week Tonight host John Oliver has targeted FIFA not once but twice in his hilarious weekly segments. Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner also quoted an article from satirical news website the Onion in an impassioned defense of his organization, unaware that the article was a spoof.

Oliver recently bought some airtime at a local TV station in Warner’s native Trinidad and Tobago, to poke further fun at Warner, who promised an “avalanche” of revelations that would take FIFA down but made an abrupt about-face. Warner wasn’t amused and shot his own video response — complete with dramatic background music — to counter the “incomprehensible” allegations made by that “comedian fool.”

Warner is currently on bail and faces extradition to the U.S. on bribery charges. Now that isn’t funny.

TIME Soccer

FIFA Puts 2026 World Cup Bidding Process On Hold

Jerome Valcke fifa congress zurich
Fabrice Coffrini—AFP/Getty Images This May 30, 2015 photo shows FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke during a press conference following the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich.

FIFA had planned to outline a schedule for the bidding process this week

FIFA has placed the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup on hold in the wake of recent corruption allegations.

In a statement released Wednesday, FIFA said that further administrative decisions regarding bidding will be resumed “at a later date.”

FIFA had plans to outline a schedule for the bidding process this week. However, the May 27 indictment of 14 individuals on FIFA-related corruption charges, the June 2 resignation of FIFA President Sepp Blatter, and the ongoing investigation into the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups — controversially awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively — have forced the Zurich-based organization to reevaluate.

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, who was not named in the May 27 U.S. indictment but has faced suspicion over a $10 million payment made in relation to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, told the BBC that it would be “nonsense” to begin a bidding process under current circumstances. FIFA has denied that Valcke authorized the payment.

Voting to determine the host of the 2026 World Cup is slated to take place May 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

TIME Soccer

An Argentinian Media Executive Named in the FIFA Scandal Has Turned Himself In

Argentine linked to FIFA scandal turns himself into Italian police
INTERPOL/HANDOUT—EPA An undated mugshot released on 09 June 2015 by Interpol shows Alejandro Burzaco.

Alejandro Burzaco says he will provide information on the corruption scandal engulfing soccer's apex body

One of the South American businessmen implicated in the ongoing corruption scandal at world soccer’s governing body FIFA surrendered to police in Italy on Tuesday, two weeks after the U.S. issued a warrant for his arrest.

Alejandro Burzaco surrendered to authorities in the northern Italian city of Bolzano, the Wall Street Journal reported. He is the former chairman and chief executive of Argentina’s Torneos SA, a media company that won the rights to broadcast several tournaments including last year’s World Cup in Brazil and this year’s Copa America, which begins in Chile on Thursday.

The company fired Burzaco last week, soon after he was charged with racketeering, fraud and money laundering in an indictment by U.S. federal authorities and named in a “red notice” by Interpol. The 50-year-old was accompanied by three lawyers when he surrendered, and said he is willing to be extradited to the U.S. to provide information on the FIFA scandal.

“Alejandro Burzaco surrendered today so he could expedite his arrival in the U.S. to address the charges head on,” Sean Casey, a lawyer at Kobre & Kim in New York, also representing Burzaco, told the Journal in an emailed statement.

U.S. prosecutors are also seeking two other Argentine executives and a Brazilian executive in connection with the massive corruption scandal, which has implicated several top officials at one of world sport’s richest organizations and resulted in the resignation of FIFA chief Sepp Blatter earlier this month.

[WSJ]

TIME Soccer

FIFA’s Sepp Blatter Is Under Investigation for Corruption, Reports Say

The 79-year-old resigned from his position on Tuesday, but will continue his duties until a successor is found

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is himself in the crosshairs of the corruption investigation that saw several of the organization’s top brass indicted over the past week, with U.S. officials reportedly saying that he was a target of their probe into world soccer’s governing body.

The New York Times says that it was told by officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, that investigators hoped to work their way up to Blatter with the cooperation of the FIFA officials already taken into custody.

Blatter suddenly resigned from his position at the helm of the global soccer federation on Tuesday, a position he had boasted made him “president of everybody” after winning a fifth consecutive term last Friday.

It was a dramatic about-face from his originally defiant attitude towards the investigation.”Why would I step down?” he had angrily responded to a reporter’s inquiry following his election. “That would mean I recognize that I did wrong.”

On Tuesday, Blatter painted his resignation as part of a much-needed “profound restructuring” of FIFA. The 79-year-old will continue his duties until a new president is elected in late 2015 or early 2016.

TIME Soccer

Former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner Has No Idea That an Onion Article About FIFA Is a Spoof

Jack Warner
Shirley Bahadur — AP FIFA executive Jack Warner gestures during a news conference held shortly after his arrival at the airport in Port-of-Spain, in his native Trinidad and Tobago on June 2, 2011.

The joke appears to be on him

Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, who is on bail on bribery charges, wasn’t laughing as he cited a work of satire published in the Onion on Sunday.

In a video posted on his official Facebook page (it was subsequently taken down but appears to have been reposted by YouTube user rpmackey here), Warner blasted an ongoing U.S. Justice Department investigation into his alleged malfeasance at FIFA and brandished a printout of an article published in the Onion to bolster his position.

The article, entitled “FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup in United States,” was published hours after U.S. authorities commenced a sweeping corruption probe into soccer’s international governing body on Wednesday that indicted several of the association’s top officials, including Warner, who is from Trinidad and Tobago.

The mocking suggestion of the article is that FIFA would be willing to organize a “summer World Cup” simply to appease U.S. authorities. However, the satirical point was lost on Warner. He asks why the U.S. would be willing to host such an event “if FIFA is so bad.”

Warner is currently facing extradition to the U.S.

TIME Soccer

Soccer World Reacts to Sepp Blatter’s Re-Election

FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks after he was re-elected at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015.
Ruben Sprich—Reuters FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks after he was re-elected at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015.

Many seem disappointed that Blatter will remain head of FIFA

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was elected to a fifth term Friday despite a sprawling criminal investigation of the soccer federation currently underway in the U.S. that has already led to the arrest of more than a dozen FIFA executives.

Blatter, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, was heavily favored to win re-election even after the arrests were made Wednesday. However, many in the soccer community expressed dismay that the man who led FIFA during the period under scrutiny could still be elected so easily.

Here’s a sampling of how people reacted to the news on Twitter

U.S. soccer president Sunil Gulati, who voted against Blatter:

ESPN reporter Darren Rovell:

Former English soccer star Gary Lineker:

New York Times columnist Juliet Macur:

Former English soccer star Stan Collymore:

Sports Illustrated soccer writer Grant Wahl:

American singer Josh Groban:

Sports journalist Jim Rome:

SportsCenter anchor Max Bretos:

Soccer journalist Richard Buxton:

TIME Soccer

Fallout From FIFA Corruption Probe Intensifies

Soccer's governing body is also at risk of losing millions in sponsorship deals

Corporate sponsors are scrambling to distance themselves from the sprawling corruption dragnet launched against soccer’s global governing body, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), by American and Swiss authorities this week.

On Wednesday, prosecutors in the U.S. unveiled a 47-count indictment against 14 defendants tied to the federation, including nine FIFA officials, who are accused of involvement in racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering conspiracies.

“Our investigation revealed that what should be an expression of international sportsmanship was used as a vehicle in a broader scheme to line executives’ pockets with bribes totaling $110 million — nearly a third of the legitimate costs of the rights to the tournaments involved,” Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General, told reporters during a press conference in Brooklyn.

The presentation of the indictment in New York City came as officials in Switzerland launched their own criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, following the arrest of seven FIFA officials in Zurich on the eve of the federation’s 65th international congress in the city.

Corporate sponsors linked to the organization appear to be in all-out damage control mode as the investigation made international headlines. World Cup sponsor Visa joined the chorus of saber rattlers lambasting FIFA and threatened to abandon its deal with the organization if it failed to weed out corruption in its ranks.

“It is important that FIFA makes changes now,” read a statement released by Visa. “Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

Global soft-drink juggernaut Coca-Cola, which is also listed as one of seven FIFA partners for the 2018 World Cup, also sought to disassociate itself from the investigation, blasting the association for bringing disrepute to the sport.

“This lengthy controversy has tarnished the mission and ideals of the FIFA World Cup and we have repeatedly expressed our concerns about these serious allegations,” said the company in a statement.

However, sponsors also appear to be firmly in the crosshairs of the U.S Justice Department.

During the press conference in Brooklyn, Attorney General Lynch said the corruption probe also covered “agreements regarding sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by a major U.S. sportswear company,” a not-so-vague reference to the 10-year, $160 million deal that Nike and the Brazilian national team inked in 1996.

On Wednesday, U.S. officials promised that the investigation launched this week was only the first chapter in their probe into corruption in international soccer.

“This is the beginning of our effort, not the end,” stressed Kelly Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “We are looking into individuals and entities in a variety of countries.”

MONEY Sports

FIFA Officials Arrested for Corruption, Indicted by U.S. DOJ

The U.S. Justice Department indicted 14 people with ties to international soccer, including FIFA officials, on a long list of charges.

TIME Soccer

Swiss Authorities to Investigate FIFA Over 2018 and 2022 World Cup Bids

FBL-FIFA-CORRUPTION-US-SWITZERLAND
Fabrice Coffrini—AFP/Getty Images FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio gives a press conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich on May 27, 2015

The suspects are likely to be extradited to the U.S.

Swiss officials rounded up seven leading soccer officials in Zurich on Wednesday morning as a part of an operation that will likely see the suspects extradited to the U.S. on corruption charges, reports the New York Times. The arrests come just days ahead of the 65th congress of the sport’s global governing body FIFA, which is scheduled to commence in the Swiss city on Thursday.

Federal prosecutors in Switzerland have opened criminal proceedings related to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and said they have seized “electronic data and documents” at the FIFA headquarters as part of the investigation. Police officials said 10 executive committee members who took part in the 2010 votes will be questioned. The U.S. Department of Justice has also unveiled an indictment against nine FIFA officials, including vice presidents Jeffrey Webb and Eugene Figueredo, and five corporate executives for racketeering conspiracy and corruption.

The soccer organization has been long bedeviled by rumors of graft, especially relating to World Cup bids and broadcast rights.“We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did,” an unidentified law-enforcement official told the newspaper. “It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalized.”

[NYT]

TIME China

China Ties Officials’ Promotions to Saving the Environment

People do morning exercises on a polluted day in Jiaozuo
China Daily/Reuters People do morning exercises on a polluted day in Jiaozuo, Henan province, China, on March 16, 2015

No longer is rampant growth the Communist Party's overriding priority

For decades, Chinese officials’ job prospects have depended on one factor above all others: economic growth. The incentive structure seemed to make sense given that China has enjoyed one of the greatest economic expansions in human history. But on May 5, new Chinese regulations added another inducement to the mix: environmental protection. Officials will be held accountable for the air, water and soil in areas under their control. Should they fail an environmental responsibility audit, promotions will be nixed.

It’s no secret that China’s breakneck growth has devastated the country’s environment. Even by the government’s own reckoning — which some consider an underestimation of the problem — only eight of 74 Chinese cities met national standards for clean air last year, according to state newswire Xinhua. Sixty percent of ground water in one official survey was deemed “bad” or “very bad,” reported Xinhua.

Beijing is now talking tough and last year declared a “war against pollution.” A revised environmental law, which took effect on Jan. 1, promises to target polluters and officials who fake environmental data. Last month, construction on a controversial $3.75 billion dam was blocked. During his annual address in March, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang vowed “a firm and unrelenting approach to ensure blue skies, clear waters, and sustainable development.”

According to Xinhua, the government guidelines released on May 5 state that “by 2020, China aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% to 45% from the 2005 level, and increase the share of nonfossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15%.”

Earlier this year, a documentary made by former state TV journalist Chai Jing showed how state-owned industries were complicit in degrading China’s environment. The online video racked up more than 200 million views, and the country’s new Environment Minister Chen Jining praised China’s version of Rachel Carson. But a few days later, the video was pulled from the Chinese digital space.

Ma Jun, a Chinese environmentalist and former journalist, wrote about Chai for this year’s TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world. (Ma is also a former TIME 100 honoree.) Reacting to the latest antipollution guidelines, Ma wrote on his microblog: “In the future, officials will feel more pressure to protect the environment. But how to assess the officials’ efforts to protect the environment is still a pivotal issue.”

Indeed, China’s Environment Minister has described the need for the country’s environmental legislation to have “steel teeth,” rather than acting as a “paper tiger.” So will the latest guidelines, which were formulated by China’s Cabinet, be enforced? Even the Xinhua article about the new policies ended with a note of caution, quoting a government-affiliated academic:

“The key for the next step is whether we can seriously implement the guideline,” noted Wang Yi, head of the Institute of Policy and Management under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

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