25th September, 2015 – In a stunning turn of events, the news that Swiss officials opened criminal proceedings filtered through the ether of the internet on Friday morning. The first news of this came down from Martyn Ziegler, who broke the news via Twitter.
The charges were completely unsurprising to anyone who has followed the rise and the apparent fall of Blatter’s reign at FIFA. The Swiss Attorney General has evidence implicating two questionable payments. The first occurred on September 12th, 2005. The recipient of that payment was one Jack Warner, who recently was arrested and awaiting extradition to the USA to face racketeering charges brought against him by the US Justice Department. In addition to that, Swiss officials have traced another suspicious payment to Michel Platini. Platini is the president of European Football’s governing boday, UEFA, and currently the popular favorite to replace Blatter as FIFA president.
Needless to say, this news has sent ripples throughout the footballing world.
On one side, Blatter has done exemplary work developing the sport in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. On the other hand, his reign has been marked with repeated and gross abuses of power. He and his staff have constantly been suspected of buying power, rather than earning it.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t seem that Swiss officials have been working in conjunction with US Justice Department officials on this set of proceedings, instead working to bring their own and separate charges against Blatter.
Earlier today, Blatter was detained and interrogated by Swiss officials, along with Platini. Additionally, Swiss officials conducted searches of FIFA headquarters and Blatter’s office. Reports state that data was seized as evidence by the Swiss Federal Criminal Police.
As US Attorney General Loretta Lynch stated after the first set of charges were filed in their office’s ongoing investigation, this is of course, a process. However, with Blatter’s implication, the charges have hit very close to home. Every dog has his day, and with the corruption within FIFA being so evident to any outsider that has spent time following the sport, football fans around the globe have every reason to be in full celebratory moods.
One might ask, what changed today causing Blatter, who’s innocence was seemingly impenetrable, was finally implicated?
Yesterday afternoon, BBC reported that authorites finally gained access to recently suspended FIFA official Jerome Valcke’s emails. Valcke was recently suspended from his duties amidst allegations of his involvement in a scheme to sell World Cup tickets at prices higher than face value. Valcke has called the charges “fabricated.”
This isn’t Valcke’s first brush with officials, or the ongoing corruption investigation of football’s governing body. Recently, the New York Times reported that Valcke admitted to authorizing a $10 million payment to Caribbean officials that is at the very heart of the allegations being brought against multiple officials across the sport. Valcke is a known villain, even demanding a £3.6 million buy off before accepting his suspension, according to the Independent.
Of course, these recent developments once again call into question the validity of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. If any of these transactions are linked back to the World Cups in Russia or Qatar, it could render the bids invalid. Both Qatar and Russia have been coming under fire recently. Russia’s stadium development program is in serious money trouble and Qatar, of course, has continued to be in a dubious spotlight when it comes to human rights violations, and special considerations being made as to scheduling. On Friday, amidst all of this, FIFA officially announced that the 2022 World Cup, traditionally a summer event, will take begin on November 21st, and end December 18th, in order to avoid problems associated with Qatari desert heat.
Stay tuned to Last Word On Sports for more on this situation as it continues to develop.