Last December, England was crushed when FIFA, soccer's governing body, rejected its $25 million bid to host the 2018 World Cup, despite an "excellent and remarkable" presentation by David Beckham, Prince William, and Prime Minister David Cameron. After the hosting honors went instead to Russia (and to Qatar for 2022, despite that country's extreme heat and lack of sporting infrastructure), some theorized that a BBC and Sunday Times investigation into FIFA corruption had triggered a backlash against the Brits. Now, Britain's former Football Association chairman, Lord Triesman, has revealed that four FIFA members demanded bribes — ranging from a knighthood to 2.5 million pounds — to help secure England the 2018 World Cup. Are the charges against FIFA legit — and will the organization clean up its act?
No, there's little evidence here: Triesman can't back up these allegations and force FIFA to take action, says Gabriele Marcotti in Sports Illustrated. In fact, he spoke up during an inquiry by the British Parliament, in a setting where he wasn't "bound by defamation or libel laws." That's "not to suggest that the World Cup bidding process was entirely clean" — those involved have been accused of past infractions — but if you want FIFA to undertake a serious investigation, "you need to have much more than a guy safely encased in a bulletproof parliamentary soapbox making vague accusations which can easily be denied."
"Triesman's allegations against FIFA officials will be hard to prove"
FIFA may still be forced to reform: Triesman isn't the only one alleging corruption; the Sunday Times also presented "fresh evidence" against FIFA, says David Bond at the BBC. The newspaper alleged that two other officials (in addition to those named by Triesman) were paid $1.5 million to support Qatar's successful 2022 World Cup bid, and that's "far more significant" than Triesman's claims. If the Times' charges are true, "they cast serious doubt on the way Qatar shocked the world of [soccer] by winning the right to host the World Cup," and help build a case of FIFA corruption. Without swift action, FIFA "may soon not have a reputation left to protect."
"FIFA faces seminal moment after Triesman allegations"
Let's not throw stones from our glass house: "FIFA's activities are indeed a scandal, a sort of open sewer," says Richard Williams in The Guardian. But let's not forget that the "inner workings of English [soccer]" are scandalous, too. Triesman also accused the chief executive of England's Premier League, Richard Scudamore, of shady dealings. Things are hardly on the up-and-up in our own country, and "the domestic game must not be allowed to use the international governing body's activities as a screen behind which to hide its own grubby imbroglios."
"Lord Triesman detects a stench about FIFA but there's a smell here too"