FIFA continued to lose support on Wednesday after authorities arrested 14 individuals, including nine FIFA officials, in connection to an ongoing FBI investigation into corruption and racketeering conspiracy charges.
In what felt like the start of a row of dominoes falling, FIFA’s own independent ethics committee distanced itself from those who were arrested, European soccer’s governing body UEFA called on Friday’s FIFA elections to be postponed and Brazil’s president called for an investigation into “all” World Cups.
“Speaking to reporters during a visit to Mexico City, Rousseff said that she believed the probes would benefit Brazil and urged authorities to ‘investigate all the cups and all the activities.’ “
Rouseff added that she doesn’t think the FBI investigation or any other investigation into FIFA activities would hurt soccer in Brazil.
Three Brazilian nationals, however, have been named in the FBI probe, including Jose Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, a Brazilian sports marketing conglomerate. On Wednesday, the FBI unsealed its records, which noted Hawilla pleaded guilty late last year to racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money-laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He also agreed to hand over $151 million.
Two other Brazilian nationals were arrested and charged on Wednesday, as well, including José Maria Marin, a current member of the FIFA organizing committee for Olympic soccer tournaments, and José Margulies, an alleged middle man between sports marketing officials and soccer officials.
Meanwhile, UEFA had some harsh words for FIFA.
“Today’s events are a disaster for FIFA and tarnish the image of football as a whole,” the organization said in a statement. “UEFA is deeply shocked and saddened by them. These events show, once again, that corruption is deeply rooted in FIFA’s culture.”
The organization then threatened to boycott FIFA’s meetings in Zurich and called for the presidential election to be postponed.
“The upcoming FIFA Congress risks to turn into a farce and therefore the European associations will have to consider carefully if they should even attend this Congress and caution a system, which, if it is not stopped, will ultimately kill football,” the statement said. “The members of the UEFA Executive Committee are convinced that there is a strong need for a change to the leadership of this FIFA and strongly believe that the FIFA Congress should be postponed, with new FIFA presidential elections to be organized within the next six months.”
In total, 209 member nations get to vote in the FIFA presidential elections. The European conglomerate is made up of just 54, meaning that despite usually having the strongest representation in the World Cup, UEFA does not hold a swing vote regarding who will next run the notoriously opaque organization.
Previously, UEFA has thrown its public support behind Blatter’s sole challenger in the election, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan.
Perhaps in an effort to save face, FIFA itself came out to condemn those arrested, including Blatter’s right-hand man Vice President Jeffrey Web. The panel, led by judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, who helped bury the Garcia report into corruption allegations surround the World Cup bids of Russia and Qatar, “banned provisionally 11 individuals from carrying out any football-related activities on a national and international level.”
“The charges are clearly related to football and are of such a serious nature that it was imperative to take swift and immediate action,” Eckert said in a statement. “The proceedings will follow their course in line with the FIFA Code of Ethics.”