TIME Soccer

Interpol Issues ‘Red Notice’ for 6 Linked to FIFA Probe

Jack Warner is pictured in a photo of the Organising Commitee for the FIFA U20 World Cup meet at the Conrad Hotel on September 23, 2009 in Cairo, Egypt.
Shaun Botterill—FIFA/Getty Images Jack Warner attends a meeting of the Organising Commitee for the FIFA U20 World Cup at the Conrad Hotel in Cairo on Sept. 23, 2009

The announcement comes a day after FIFA president Sepp Blatter resigned amid the corruption scandal

(PARIS) — Interpol has put six men with ties to FIFA on its most wanted list, issuing an international alert for two former FIFA officials and four executives on charges including racketeering and corruption.

The “Red Notices” announced Wednesday were for former FIFA vice president Jack Warner of Trinidad and former executive committee member Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay.

Others listed were Argentinians Alejandro Burzaco and brothers Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, who together are accused of paying more than $100 million in bribes for media and commercial rights to soccer tournaments; and Jose Margulies, a Brazilian broadcast executive.

The announcement from Interpol comes a day after Sepp Blatter announced he will step down as FIFA president amid the widening corruption scandal.

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

5 Reasons Why People Wanted Sepp Blatter to Resign

fifa congress sepp blatter
Alessandro Della Bella—Getty Images FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter talks to the press during the FIFA Post Congress Week Press Conference at the Home of FIFA on May 30, 2015 in Zurich.

Fans and pundits couldn't stand the departing head of soccer's global body. Here's why

FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced he would resign Tuesday, just four days are being voted to a fifth term at the head of soccer’s global organizing body. His resignation was greeted with enthusiastic delight by figures across the world of soccer — from former players to pundits — to whom Blatter’s name has become synonymous with sleaze and graft. Here are five reasons why so many rejoiced at Blatter’s resignation:

1. Corruption
The charges of corruption against FIFA and Blatter are too many to count. Reports say he personally accepted a $1 million bribe as secretary general of FIFA before he even became president. Later, FIFA was accused of an illegal ticket sales plot with a hospitality partner in which Blatter’s nephew holds a stake (thanks to a decision made by Blatter in 2007). He’s been accused of bribing people for information about those who speak out against him. From 2010 to 2013 half of FIFA’s 24-person executive committee, which Blatter oversees, was accused of corruption in some capacity, and five were forced to resign. And yet none of those charges have stuck — with Blatter proclaiming himself a “scapegoat” for the media.

2. The Qatar World Cup 2022
There are allegations that FIFA executives — although not Blatter — accepted bribes to choose Qatar for the location of the 2022 World Cup, even though Qatar has a long-documented history of human rights violations and temperatures in summer can reach temperatures of 122 degrees Fahrenheit, far too hot for athletes to play soccer. Though FIFA has moved the date of this tournament to December, the working conditions to build the stadiums will still be brutal: The International Trade Union Profession predicts that more than 4,000 migrant workers will have died by the time the games are played. Blatter later admitted it had been a “mistake” to award Qatar the World Cup.

3. Racism
Blatter has long ignored and downplayed the serious issue of racism in soccer, despite the fact that there have been many documented incidents of players and fans chanting racist slurs and making anti-Semitic gestures. In 2011, Blatter came under fire for claiming “there is no racism” in soccer and suggesting any cultural differences between players could be “resolved with a handshake.”

4. Sexism
Blatter’s solution to boost women’s soccer ratings? Sexier outfits. “They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?” he said in 2004. Blatter now thinks of himself as a “godfather” to the women’s game.

5. The Turf War
Blatter has also come under fire for this year’s women’s world cup. It’s the first FIFA tournament that will be played on turf, which the competitors say is much more dangerous. Just look at this picture of player Sydney Leroux’s legs after playing on turf (shared by basketball player Kobe Bryant on social media).

Players like Abby Wambach argue it’s an issue of gender equality: the men have never been asked to play on turf and, because their games draw more viewers, never would be.

TIME Soccer

FIFA President Sepp Blatter Resigns

He promises fresh elections

(ZURICH)—FIFA President Sepp Blatter will resign from soccer’s governing body amid a widening corruption scandal and has promised to call for fresh elections to choose a successor.

The 79-year-old Blatter was re-elected to a fifth term on Friday, two days after a corruption crisis erupted and seven soccer officials were arrested in Zurich ahead of the FIFA congress.

“This mandate does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football,” Blatter said Tuesday at a hastily arranged news conference. “FIFA needs a profound restructuring.”

Elections are expected to take place sometime between December and March.

“I will continue to exercise my function (until the new election),” Blatter said.

Blatter said he reached the decision after he “thoroughly considered my presidency and … (about) the last 40 years in my life.”

TIME Soccer

FIFA Says Valcke Not Behind $10 Million Payment in Corruption Probe

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke during The International Football Association Board AGM at the Culloden Hotel, Belfast on Saturday February 28, 2015.
Liam McBurney—PA Wire/Press Association Images FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke during the International Football Association Board AGM at the Culloden Hotel, Belfast, on Feb. 28, 2015

The money is allegedly connected to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa

(ZURICH) — FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke was not involved in the $10 million payment mentioned in the U.S. corruption probe rocking soccer’s governing body, FIFA said Tuesday.

FIFA said the payment was approved in 2007 by Julio Grondona, the former chairman of the finance committee who died last year.

The FIFA statement follows a New York Times report that American law enforcement officials believe Valcke transferred the money in 2008 to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the former CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president who faces corruption charges in the U.S. The report cited unidentified law enforcement officials.

But FIFA described the payment as part of the South African government’s “project to support the African diaspora in Caribbean countries as part of the World Cup legacy.”

The U.S. Department of Justice says the money was used by South Africa to pay off Warner and two other former FIFA executive committee members for backing South Africa in a 2004 vote that awarded the country the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA said neither Valcke “nor any other member of FIFA’s senior management were involved in the initiation, approval and implementation” of the project.

TIME Soccer

U.S. Believes Top FIFA Official Behind $10 Million Payment, Report Says

FIFA Post Congress Week Press Conference
Alessandro Della Bella—Getty Images Jerome Valcke, FIFA secretary general, attends the FIFA Post Congress Week Press Conference at the Home of FIFA on May 30, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland.

The official in question is Sepp Blatter's right-hand man, Jerome Valcke

(ZURICH) — A report says the high-ranking FIFA official who allegedly made a $10-million payment central to a U.S. probe into soccer corruption is believed to be Sepp Blatter’s right-hand man, Jerome Valcke.

The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/1cuRzGM) reported late Monday that American law enforcement officials believe Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general, transferred the money in 2008 to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the former CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president who faces corruption charges in the U.S. The report cited unidentified law enforcement officials.

American investigators believe the money was paid as a bribe in exchange for Warner and others voting to give the 2010 World Cup to South Africa.

The Times said Valcke said in an email that he did not authorize the payment and did not have the power to do so. In a statement, a FIFA spokesperson said the payment was authorized by the then-finance committee chairman, per FIFA regulations. The chairman, Julio Grondona, died last year.

The payment is at the heart of a probe by the U.S. Department of Justice that led to seven FIFA members arrested last week and a total of 14 people named in a racketeering indictment accusing soccer officials of accepting more than $150 million in bribes.

Blatter, who won re-election Friday for a fifth term as FIFA president despite the scandal, has denied being the unidentified high-ranking official named in the indictment as having “caused” the payment.

“Definitely that is not me,” Blatter said at a news conference.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki on Monday denied his government paid bribes to secure the World Cup. Danny Jordaan, the bid chief for the 2010 tournament, told a South African newspaper that the money was sent to Warner’s regional confederation to help with soccer development in the Caribbean.

FIFA announced earlier Monday that Valcke had canceled his planned trip to attend the opening of the Women’s World Cup in Canada on Saturday “due to the current situation.”

TIME Television

Watch John Oliver’s Rematch With FIFA On Last Week Tonight

Goooooooal

Last Week Tonight was off the air last weekend, which gave its writers plenty of time to write a blistering takedown of one of their favorite subjects: FIFA.

While John Oliver’s staff undoubtedly had a different episode planned for Sunday, on Wednesday the United States Department of Justice unleashed a 47-count indictment that charged nine officials at the soccer body and five sports marketing executives with racketing, wire fraud and money-laundering. In the wake of the scandal, Oliver could not resist taking another poke at FIFA, a.k.a. “the organization that sounds the most like the name of a purse dog.”

Oliver’s dislike for the organization is well-established after he slammed them on an episode before last year’s World Cup. (You can—and should— watch the episode here.)

The HBO host could barely contain his glee as he discussed the scandal and encouraged the audience to read the actual FIFA indictment, which includes memorable quotes that lay bare the scandalous behavior of soccer’s governing body.

But, for Oliver, the most surprising aspect of the arrest was that it was the United States who spearheaded it. In Oliver’s word, that’s like “finding out that Ke$ha arrested a group of bankers involved in commodities fraud.”

 

 

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

How FIFA’s Leader Has Clung to Power Despite Corruption Scandal

The rules of soccer's governing body are stacked in favor of entrenched leaders like the 79-year-old Sepp Blatter

There aren’t many venues in global politics these days where developing nations, especially from Africa, can overrule their wealthy European peers. But FIFA is surely one of them. Such are the rules of the mammoth bureaucracy that governs the game of soccer—in its decisions, one country gets one vote, regardless how big or powerful—that even the worst scandal in its history could not dislodge the technocrat who enjoys the support of the developing world.

Sepp Blatter, who has run FIFA since 1998, easily won re-election on Friday to another four-year term. And it didn’t matter that nine officials under his command, including two direct subordinates, had been indicted by the U.S. two days earlier for allegedly taking millions of dollars in kickbacks during Blatter’s tenure. It also didn’t matter that the most influential nations in soccer, including all of Europe and North America, were intent on finally ousting Blatter after those arrests.

It didn’t matter because of delegates like Amaju Pinnick, the head of the soccer federation of Nigeria, who emerged on Friday evening from the congress hall in Zurich, Switzerland, wearing a pinstripe suit and a radiant smile. His friendship with Blatter dates back to 1999, when the newly elected FIFA President paid a visit to Nigeria. “I was privileged to go with the VIP volunteers who worked with him,” says Pinnick, who was then a mid-level official in Nigerian soccer. “He told me what he wanted to do for Africa, what he wanted to do for the developing nations,” he recalled. “He wants the small nations in FIFA to feel very important.”

The FIFA congress was full of such testimonials. On the massive screens above the stage, videos promoting Blatter’s good works ran at regular intervals, one showing a montage of African children playing soccer on the beach. “We promote soccer, everywhere,” the voiceover explained. At one point, Isha Johansen, the head of the soccer federation of Sierra Leone, stood up to thank Blatter for helping her country fight last year’s outbreak of the Ebola virus with a “solidarity token” of $50,000. “That was the very first international donation Sierra Leone ever received to fight Ebola,” she said.

There was no such praise, however, from the soccer federations of the developed world, which represented about a third of the 209 countries and territories that comprise FIFA. When the voting ended on Friday evening, the Westerners sulked out of the hall, saying little to the news cameras that tried to capture their frustration. The few who agreed to talk, like Jesper Moller Christensen of Denmark, expressed “disappointment” over Blatter’s re-election. “This is not the end,” he insisted. “There are disciplinary actions we could take if the evidence appears.”

But so far, the evidence hasn’t appeared. The indictments unsealed on Wednesday in New York detailed decades of bribes worth a total of around $150 million, which top FIFA officials allegedly received in exchange for granting promotional contracts, tournaments and other lucrative deals to their patrons. Nine of these officials are now under arrest in Switzerland, awaiting extradition to the U.S. to face charges including racketeering and money laundering. But Blatter is not among them.

“Right now he is unscathed,” said the dejected president of the soccer federation of Cyprus, Costas Koutsokoumnis, as he stood smoking outside the congress hall after Blatter’s re-election. “His name is not touched anywhere.”

This fact did not come as a surprise to Brett Forest, who has spent years investigating corruption in the world of soccer. “Many journalists for decades have been on to this guy,” said Forest, a senior writer with ESPN Magazine who recently published a book on match-fixing at the highest levels of the game. “But no one has ever found anything that’s really good enough. That tells you this guy is a smart player.”

Rather than exposing himself through blatant bribery schemes, Blatter has tended to use small development projects to win the loyalty of soccer federations from impoverished countries. He has steadily funneled some of FIFA’s enormous cash pile—the total revenues of the organization between 2011 and 2014 came to around $5.7 billion—toward building stadiums and supporting leagues in the developing world. Under his tenure, the World Cup also came to Africa for the first time: in 2010, South Africa hosted the soccer championships, which Blatter aptly referred to on Friday as “the goose with the golden eggs” during one of his rambling speeches.

“While a lot of that is really positive and shouldn’t be dismissed, only a fraction of the money intended for those projects often goes to the right place,” said Forest. Much of it gets siphoned off to corrupt officials in the recipient countries, further encouraging their devotion to FIFA’s incumbent leadership, he said. “It’s a cabal that perpetuates itself.”

European soccer federations have no easy means of dislodging it. Next week, the Union of European Football Associations, which is known as UEFA, will meet again in Berlin to discuss their options against Blatter. There was even speculation at the congress on Friday that the Europeans could split off from FIFA to form a rival organization. But Christensen of Denmark said that won’t happen any time soon. “The 54 members of UEFA will never agree to a boycott,” he said.

Instead they are counting on the arrested FIFA officials to give testimony against Blatter. “There would then be disciplinary actions we could take” inside FIFA in order to unseat the President, Chistensen told TIME. So even though Blatter managed on Friday to win another term, it is far from clear that he will be able to hold on for the duration of his latest four-year term. “No, no, we will not wait that long,” said Koutsokoumnis of Cyprus. “There are ways to get him.”

The clearest way would be another indictment, which the acting U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York has promised to produce as the investigation moves forward. “It’s only just beginning,” Kelly Currie said on Wednesday of the arrests so far.

In the coming months, FIFA and its President will still have to deal with the damning allegations that emerge from the ongoing probe. Working with U.S. law enforcement, Swiss authorities have launched a separate investigation into how FIFA allotted Russia and Qatar the rights to host the next two World Cup championships. But even if these criminal cases implicate Blatter directly, or discredit him enough to force his resignation, it is far from clear that FIFA will change.

“You have to understand the structure of FIFA,” said Forest, the investigative journalist. “In one sense it’s a beautiful and pure democracy. A small country like Togo has the same voting power as a country like Germany. But it’s also FIFA’s fundamental weakness.” In practice, it seems to encourage FIFA’s leadership to court the favor of the smallest federations, because they know that with their support, a FIFA President is effectively immune to internal demands for change.

In his parting remarks on Friday, Blatter seemed to signal that this culture would persist. Instead of addressing the corruption scandal directly—he only referred to it as a “storm,” as though it were a natural and temporary bit of turbulence—he promised to give more seats on FIFA’s ruling committee to representatives of Oceania, which is mostly comprised of Pacific Island countries like Fiji. That is what FIFA needs right now, he said, for the sake of “solidarity.”

And as long as Blatter can use such favors to keep the developing world behind him, there is little that the wealthy nations of the world can do to influence his leadership. They may just have to resign themselves to another four years under Blatter, who seemed to feel that his time in office hadn’t lasted all that long. “What is this notion of time? Time is infinite and we slice it up,” the 79-year-old remarked, turning suddenly philosophical as the congress wound down. “The more one ages, the more time flies by quickly, time grows short. So I am with you, and I would quite simply like to stay with you.” And with that, the majority of the audience broke into wild applause.

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:

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com