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    A Culture of Corruption: is it Time for FIFA to Hang Up its Boots?

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    Corruption allegations, sponsors jumping ship and a campaign to completely overhaul the current organisation have all taken their toll on football's world governing body, FIFA, sparking debate about whether a revolution against the all-powerful federation is realistic.

    Along with Sony and Emirates, three more major sponsors — Castrol, Continental and Johnson & Johnson — have decided not to renew their lucrative sponsorship deals with FIFA, following the past couple of years filled with allegations of corruption, bribery and claims that FIFA has an inherently rotten culture.

    Although none of the sponsors have publicly cited the allegations against FIFA as the reason for walking away, it raises questions about whether so much mud has been thrown at FIFA in recent times that it is becoming almost impossible to clean.

    The Complaints — Dodgy Deals, Human Rights and Playing by its own Rules

    For many years, numerous critics have taken aim at FIFA, and in particular, its President Sepp Blatter, accusing the organisation of a lack of transparency, bribery and corruption when it comes to awarding hosting rights for major events, such as the FIFA World Cup — the world's largest sporting event.

    A recent scandal has centred on the decision by FIFA to award the 2022 World Cup hosting rights to the Gulf nation of Qatar.

    Last year, an investigation by the Sunday Times into the decision to award Qatar the event uncovered millions of documents and communications that seemingly confirmed suspicions that Qatar may have been involved in buying votes during the bidding process.

    Bonita Mersiades, former head of corporate affairs for the Australian football association, who worked on Australia's bid to host the 2022 event, said FIFA's bidding process was "flawed to begin with."

    Although not claiming to have a "smoking gun" of evidence Ms Mersiades told Sputnik UK that during her time on the Australian bid she came across instances of "behind closed doors deals, double deals, counter deals and subterranean behaviour, and that's how FIFA operates; they don't make decisions on the basis of merit, they make it on the basis of what goes on behind closed doors."

    However, as FIFA is a self-regulated entity, the federation's own ethics committee undertook its own investigation into allegations of vote-buying in the lead up to the announcement of the 2018 and 2022 host nations, with many commenting that a FIFA ethics committee was a contradiction in itself.

    Despite the evidence, American lawyer Michael Garcia, who was tasked with compiling the investigation, said he would not consider the contents put forward by the Sunday Times, drawing more ire from the international football community.

    However, just when you thought things couldn't get messier — they did.

    Following the release of FIFA's report — which found no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Russia and Qatar's successful bids — Mr Garcia publicly denounced the findings, saying that the report contained "numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations," that misinterpreted his research, creating a further farce for FIFA.

    New FIFA Now: Talkin' ‘Bout a Revolution'

    In recent times, there have been threats made to potentially break away from FIFA due to clashes between the federations, clubs and national football associations.

    In 2011, a group of nine major European clubs, including English Premier League teams Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool threatened to break away from FIFA to form their own super league over a dispute relating to control of the game's finances and fixture schedules.

    Although the dispute was finalised, it demonstrated the lack of understanding between FIFA and the game's major players.

    However, following recent developments over the past couple of years, a new campaign has started to try and reform FIFA, to change the organisation's practices and tarnished image into one of credibility.

    Far from calling for a breakaway football federation, the ‘New FIFA Now' campaign, headed by a coalition of government officials, sponsors and others interested in football is calling for FIFA to undergo widespread reform, similar to efforts made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and cycling authorities.

    New FIFA Now's charter calls for an increase in transparency and accountability regarding the decisions it makes and aims to place pressure on sponsors, governments and broadcasters to withdraw their funding from FIFA if changes aren't made to current practices.

    Bonita Mersiades says that central to the proposed changes to FIFA would be the formation of an independent reform committee, which would "sweep a broom through it and start again."

    "[We would] hold new elections and then we've got a new FIFA basically. For people who are on the FIFA executive, even if they've been there for a relatively short time, they haven't stood up and said anything; they're all too scared as there's a culture of silence."

     As the critics of FIFA grow louder, it seems plausible that more sponsors may eventually follow those that have already left FIFA out the door, as the federation battles to improve its tarnished image that has been tied up with allegations of corruption and bribery in recent years.

    Despite the efforts to shake up FIFA leadership and introduce change, it's still not known whether this will happen anytime soon, and whether it will be enough to win back the trust of some the wider footballing public.

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