Swiss authorities conducted an extraordinary early-morning operation here Wednesday to arrest several top soccer officials and extradite them to the United States on federal corruption charges.As leaders of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel, an elegant five-star property with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. They went to the front desk to get room numbers and then proceeded upstairs.The charges, backed by an F.B.I. investigation, allege widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals.
Among the “alleged schemes,” said the Justice Department, were kickbacks to FIFA officials by executives and companies involved in soccer marketing and “bribes and kickbacks in connection” with “the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election,” the Justice Department said. . . .Swiss prosecutors, in a related announcement, said they had opened criminal proceedings against unidentified individuals on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the awarding of rights to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Blatter has adopted the methods of the modern dictator: working hard to look like a democrat while perverting liberal institutions to illiberal ends. With its monopoly over the global game, FIFA is a powerful international institution, and when it takes these tactics, it serves as a dangerous model for the countries and peoples of the world.
Maybe the solution is not to try to outbid authoritarian countries in dealing with corrupt international sporting bodies, but make those sporting bodies somewhat less ridiculous. If FIFA, the IOC, or even the Federation Internationale des Echecs were more transparent, it might be harder for authoritarians to politically profit and more palatable for democracies to pony up the hosting costs.