Not cool, FIFA. Photo: (Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
The 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups will be broadcast domestically by Fox, leaving ESPN more room to cover the organization more skeptically. Like the International Olympic Committee, FIFA is a cartel, a nonprofit entity that profits handsomely from the games, that exempts itself from tax laws, and that is fiercely resistant to change. It is run (mostly) by old white men with messianic tendencies whose response to criticism is to make messianic gestures.
Here's a quick rundown of why FIFA is fairly abominable.
1. FIFA is very slow to allow the use of technology to help referees adjudicate close calls, even those that would allow the flow of the game to remain uninterrupted. It introduced goal-line technology for this World Cup, but otherwise leaves the single referee unprotected, dramatically increasing the chances that he'll be a target for blame when teams' fortunes go south. It won't allow reviews or challenges.
2. The World Cup used to be free to watch. Now, in many countries, it costs a lot of money to buy a package. In Singapore, watching all the games can run you about $120. FIFA doesn't tolerate social media highlight mash-ups either, breaking with most other major international organizations. FIFA's stinginess leads the tech-savvy football fan to find illegal end-runs, because free football is hard to find in poorer countries.
3. A nonprofit organization will gross $4 billion from the commercial and TV rights alone. FIFA claims that the excess money is held as "reserve." (For what?)
4. There was almost certainly corruption involved in Qatar's winning as host of the 2022 World Cup. And more than 1,000 workers, laboring as salary slaves, have died while building Qatari stadiums; FIFA did not seem to know, at best. (To be fair to ESPN, its Jeremy Schaap has done excellent reporting on the death of Qatari laborers.)
5. FIFA President Sepp Blatter is imperious, self-aggrandizing, and probably homophobic.
6. At least one match was fixed at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. FIFA's former security czar told HBO recently that he was slow on the uptake when it came to learning about the potential for match-fixing.
7. FIFA requires players to wear certain types of underwear and forces fans to drink only certain brands of beer. It enforces its (nonprofit?) brand with the zealousness of Disney.
8. FIFA has taken a public stand against racism, but it has a high bar for enforcing penalties against country-level organizations, which means that the rules are just for show. Also, the frequent shouts of "puto," or "faggot," by Mexican fans are not considered to be discriminatory, even though the organization itself supposedly has a zero-tolerance policy against homophobia.
In sum: FIFA sucks home countries dry, scams us all for television rights, and is accountable to no one.
Enjoy the games!
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