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May 27, 2015
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Yesterday 14 top FIFA officials were arrested on charges of racketeering, conspiracy, and corruption and extradited from a luxury Swiss hotel to face charges in the United States. This sounds like the climactic scene of a movie about the mob getting taken down, but it is actually the real life events of what is happening right now in an organization that's main purpose is to organize soccer matches.

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter - the most corrupt person on Earth?

In our recurring hit series “Wait. What?” we recount conversations we have about news stories that start out with one person explaining the story and the other party replying, “Wait. What?” In this installment, we dive into the FIFA corruption charges and arrests.


- Wow. I can’t believe that 14 top FIFA officials were arrested and taken from their luxury Swiss hotel rooms.
- Wait. What?
- Yeah man! You didn’t hear? They were arrested on charges of racketeering, conspiracy, and corruption and extradited to face charges in the United States.
- Wait. Woah.
- I know. This sounds like the climactic scene of a movie about the mob getting taken down, but it is actually the real life events of what is happening right now in an organization whose main purpose is to organize soccer matches. Although with $1.5 billion in reserves, they’re more like an international business conglomerate than a sports organization.
- Wait. Really?
- Yeah man. And although the longtime President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter wasn’t arrested, many suspect that charges could be coming for him too. He’s basically like a dictator that requires politicians, soccer stars and corporations to bow to his desires because the world loves soccer so much and FIFA is just this monopoly that makes it so they get to call the shots.
- Wow. What else?
- Oh man, so much more. When countries bid to host the World Cup, only the 24 members of the “Executive Committee” (or “ExCo”) get to cast votes, so it’s basically a known secret that vote buying is rampant, and Blatter at the very least turns a blind eye to it but more likely condones and participates in it himself. Like with the controversial decision for Qatar getting chosen to host in 2022, it’s been revealed that ExCo members were paid sums of money between $1.5 to $2.5 million for their vote, while the Paraguayan member told English representatives that he’d give them his vote in exchange for a knighthood.
- Wait. Damn.
- By their own admission they brought in $5.7 billion between 2011 and 2014, and lots of that goes into the pockets of the ExCo in the form of kickbacks. Former FIFA VP Jack Warner illegally resold tickets to the 2006 World Cup and also took bribes for media and marketing rights to tournaments in the Concacaf Region, which also falls under FIFA because they run fucking everything.
- Wait. How?
- Well, because they’re immune to external pressure because they have a monopoly strangle hold on a sport that for many people around the world is tantamount to a religion, and the tradition of the World Cup is so strong that if a country tried to opt out of it would be like opting out of Christmas. And internal reform is unlikely because FIFA is notoriously opaque with their proceedings and decisions are often made without explanation or apparent deliberation. An outside report once called the inner workings of FIFA “byzantine and impenetrable.”
- Wait. Question: can I still play FIFA on my PS4 and not feel guilty about it?
- Well, Electronic Arts does have the exclusive license from FIFA, which is why you can play all of the official FIFA leagues, including the English Premier League, the United States’ Major League Soccer, and all the other leagues that you’ve heard of. The series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling sports video game franchise of all time. So yeah, FIFA is making money from FIFA, so you shouldn’t feel any more guilty than you should feel watching the World Cup.
- Cool. Wait. So…no?
- No, so yes. You should feel guilty for both. At least until FIFA is pressured into reform. Recent international media coverage by the likes of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight are moving things in the right direction.
- Wait, so…?
- Fine, yes, instead of continuing to have this conversation, you can just watch the John Oliver clip.
- Cool. Thanks.

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