05:32 GMT +324 October 2019
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    The Politics of Football: US Accused of Hidden Agenda Over FIFA Arrests

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    FIFA Corruption Scandal (84)

    As football fans around the world continue to express their outrage at FIFA, following the arrest of senior officials over corruption allegations, questions have been raised about the timing of the arrests amid speculation the US-led investigation was initiated as part of a wider political game.

    Yesterday's news that FIFA officials were embroiled in seemingly another corruption scandal led many politicians, pundits and punters to call for world football's chief, Sepp Blatter, to stand down from his position, as part of a noble attempt to rid the game of its murky reputation for dodgy deals and smoky backroom agreements.

    And while many of the calls for the once beautiful game to clean itself from its ugly recent past have been genuine, others have taken a deeper look at what happened to raise questions about a potential political plot beneath the surface of yesterday's arrests.

    US Involvement Raises Questions

    The fact that Swiss investigators undertook the morning raids following a request from American authorities has led to questions about what, if any impact, the potential FIFA corruption may have on the US.

    US attorney general Loretta Lynch justified the actions by saying that the arrests related to long-standing alleged "corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States" and that it "spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks."

    However, before the dust had settled, it was announced that Swiss authorities were undertaking a separate investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, with representatives saying that legal proceedings had been initiated over "the suspicion of criminal mismanagement and of money laundering in connection with the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups." 

    The US' involvement in the arrests drew the attention of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who questioned why Washington authorities were involving themselves in seemingly international issues.

    "It looks very strange, the arrests are carried out on the request of the US side. They are accused of corruption — who is? International officials. I suppose that someone broke some rules, I don't know. But definitely, it's got nothing to do with the US. Those officials are not US citizens. If something happened it was not in the US and it's nothing to do with them."

    Perfect Timing?

    The timing of the arrests — which took place one day before FIFA was scheduled to hold its annual congress and vote on who will lead the organization for the next four years — has also triggered suspicion from some pundits.

    While authorities say that the timing of the arrests was critical as most FIFA officials under investigation were in Zurich for the FIFA conference, others, including Vladimir Putin, have suggested that it was part of an attempt to undermine current FIFA boss Sepp Blatter's bid to secure another four years as top dog.

    "It's another clear attempt by the USA to spread its jurisdiction to other states. And I have no doubt — it's a clear attempt not to allow Mr Blatter to be re-elected as president of FIFA, which is a great violation of the operating principles of international organizations."

    Putin cited the Edward Snowden and Julian Assange cases as examples of the US bullying other countries into making decisions that would appease their political interests.

    "The US use these methods to achieve their self-interested aims. And they do it illegally. They harass people. I don't rule out that the same is happening regarding FIFA. Although I don't know how that will end but the fact it's happening on the eve of the election of FIFA head points to that aim."

    This suspicion was also raised by Die Welt journalist Clemens Wergin, who wrote that it was surprising the US has taken such strong action on the issue given that it "plays a rather subordinate role both in international football as well as a place of FIFA corruption."

    Others have pointed out that FIFA events have provide a timely smokescreen for US President Barack Obama's visit to Germany amid the ongoing BND-NSA spy scandal, where German intelligence agencies have been accused of illegally sharing information with their US counterparts.

    'The Real Losers'

    While most the of the initial attention has been placed on FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, who until yesterday's developments had been expected to secure another term as president, it has been pointed out that Russia and Qatar potentially stand to lose the most from the corruption arrests, as the hosting rights of their respective World Cups have been called into question.

    The Swiss investigation into the awarding of hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments has led to widespread calls for a new fresh vote — to avoid any element of corruption. 

    British Prime Minister David Cameron has been one of the political figures to weigh into the debate, with a spokesperson for the PM speaking about the disappointment of England's failed bid for the 2018 event, which was subsequently won by Russia, before confirming David Cameron's support for a full review of the Russia and Qatar tournaments and a complete restructure of FIFA.

    "What we now need to see is the criminal investigations and there are of course two distinct ones — there is a US one and one by the Swiss authorities […] — and they of course should be completed."

    The FIFA scandal has all played out over the backdrop of one of the most serious breakdowns in Russia-US relations in recent decades, as both sides accuse each other of improper conduct over the conflict in Ukraine.

    Tom Montague, in his article 'Russia and Qatar: losers in the FIFA scandal' for Politico magazine, wrote about the impact current politics have had in football, pointing out that the recent FIFA arrests were further disrupting relations between the West and Russia.

    "The only thing certain about what's coming next for the organizations is that it will include more revelations far more explosive than this morning's news — revelations that might jeopardize the next two World Cup finals, exacerbate the political crisis between east and west, and lead to dozens of potentially ruinous corporate lawsuits.

    "If anyone was in doubt before, Wednesday's events confirm that soccer [football] has now firmly moved into the realm of Realpolitik."

    FIFA Corruption Scandal (84)


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    arrest, western medling, West, money-laundering, bullying, bribery, international relations, football, corruption, World Cup 2022, World Cup 2018, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), FIFA, Vladimir Putin, World, United States, Russia, Qatar, Switzerland, Joseph Blatter
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