Why Fifa is football’s dirtiest player

Last month’s rush to exonerate the Premier League’s CEO, Richard Scudamore, who had been accused of sexism, was just another example of the game’s eagerness to sweep dirty linen under the carpet.

Monster's ball: part of a float satirising Fifa for the Mainz Carnival in Germany, 3 March. Photo: Getty
Monster's ball: part of a float satirising Fifa for the Mainz Carnival in Germany, 3 March. Photo: Getty

The latest allegations about Fifa’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar have hardly come as a surprise. Indeed, if there was any surprise, it was that there were still some who spoke of being “shocked” at the claims. However, the institutional corruption of football and the hijacking of the “beautiful game” by shady interests does not stop at the top level; rather, it starts there.

Nor is there any reason for the British authorities to look smug. Not only have they failed to take any credible kind of stand against the alleged auctioning of the World Cup, but our own game is increasingly consumed by questionable governance and takeovers by a self-serving elite that considers itself above the law and, by virtue of its colossal wealth, immune from attack.

So many people are now earning vast riches from the Premier League that those charged with governance easily brush aside any attempt to question the efficacy of the “fit and proper persons” tests for club ownership, or the policing of offshore agents and their close relationships with players, managers and officials.

The FA was happy to play the system for all its worth in its campaign to stage the 2018 World Cup. David Beckham was sent to woo Jack Warner, the long-serving Fifa executive committee member who resigned from the federation while suspended pending a bribery investigation, and the BBC was pressured to withdraw a documentary exposing Fifa corruption. Both the Prime Minister and Prince William were cajoled to add their lustre to the fruitless, expensive folly.

Last month’s cursory examination and rush to exonerate the Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Scudamore, who had been accused of sexism, was just another example of the game’s eagerness to sweep any possible dirty linen under the carpet. The Football League’s inability to prevent the new Leeds United owner, Massimo Cellino – despite a fraud-related conviction – from taking over the club seems to me a further illustration of the inadequacy of regulations.

No one has been able to get to grips with a system that allows the players’ union, controlled by Gordon Taylor (supposedly the highest-paid union officer in the world, with a reported salary of £1m), to derive most of its revenue in effect from the employers, in the form of a share of the vast television-rights fees generated by the Premier League.

Although football still thrills and fascinates, the paraphernalia constructed to administer the game continues, free from scrutiny, to exploit the sport. That this has been evident to many observers for so long and has come to prominence only now as a result of a decision to award the World Cup to such a patently unsuitable country is proof of Fifa’s breathtaking contempt and arrogance.

A brave stand by some countries to withdraw from Fifa and potentially blow apart not only the World Cup of 2022 in Qatar but also that in Russia in 2018 (for surely that decision must also be open to question in the light of the latest revelations) would be a step forward. But who in the world of football nations has the moral authority and lack of self-interest to make such a move?

Jon Holmes was a football agent and is a former chairman of Leicester City FC