Friday 23 February 2018

Is a new US sheriff riding in to clean up Fifa's mess?

Why is this investigation different? And could Sepp Blatter really fall? Jamie Doward on a week of crisis in football's governing body

Fifa and corruption allegations - we have heard it all before. So what's new? It is true that football's governing body has been mired in bribery allegations for years. Recently this has centred on claims - strongly denied by all involved - that Russia and Qatar in effect bought the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Fifa investigated the claims and, to no one's surprise, found nothing to substantiate them.

Three things are new: geography, the nature of the investigation and the nature of its evidence-gathering. The arrests last week of 14 Fifa officials and marketing executives was sparked by a four-year US department of justice investigation. Many think it was timed deliberately to place maximum pressure on Fifa president Sepp Blatter before Friday's crucial vote on his presidency, which he won.

It is significant that the US is now leading the way in tackling corruption at Fifa, after European investigators have conspicuously failed to land a blow. The Americans have had a Fifa whistle-blower, Chuck Blazer, helping them amass large volumes of evidence. The detail in the 164-page indictment unveiled last week is astonishing. It paints a picture of systemic corruption on the part of Fifa officials and marketing officials over two decades. The corruption allegedly centres on marketing and television deals for regional football competitions in the Americas, not the World Cup.

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