FIFA payments to top executives have soared 81% in four years

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FIFA payments to so-called “key management personnel” have surged 81% in the past four years, according to figures in the world governing body’s financial reports.

FIFA’s 2012 financial report discloses that “short-term employee benefits” of $33.5 million were paid to “key management personnel.” The figure represents an increase of 13.6% from 2011 when $29.5 million was paid out to the key personnel, who the governing body defines as “members of the Executive Committee, the Finance Committee and the FIFA management, in particular the directors.”

The 2011 figure was a decrease from the $32.6 million paid in 2010, but a sharp spike from the $20.9 million paid in 2009 and the $18.5 million shelled out in 2008. To put all the numbers in perspective, the $33.5 million paid by FIFA to “key management personnel” in 2012 is a whopping $14.1 million increase from what was paid out just four years prior.

If questions are firing through your mind, you’re not alone.

A little over a week ago Sport Illustrated spoke to FIFA and asked it to explain what comprised “short-term employee benefits”. FIFA responded by saying that they “include the total compensation including wages, salaries and variable compensation as well as daily allowances.” FIFA did not go on to explain the nebulous definition of “variable compensation” and “daily allowances,” although one has to assume that it includes milk money.

FIFA also refused to respond to SI’s question concerning how many “key management personnel” are in FIFA, although evidence suggests that in 2010 there were at least 34. But without specific numbers identifying “key management personnel” in each year from 2008-2012 impossible to determine whether new personnel have been designated with such a title and whether previously designated personnel are carrying home significantly greater benefits. FIFA also refused to comment on how much money Sepp Blatter makes for running the organization.

SI did manage, however, to speak directly to Mohamed bin Hammam – the FIFA executive committee member from Qatar who is running against Blatter for the upcoming FIFA presidency – and the wealthy businessman was more forthcoming. He explained that in 2010 he was paid $281,720 from his work at FIFA. But when it came to “key management personnel” even bin Hammam had no idea what the term referred to. “Key management personnel? Maybe this is professional stuff,” Bin Hammam said. “Maybe it meant professional stuff, not for the executive committee?”

Yes, this is our sport’s world governing body. Seemingly healthy as a horse and hell-bent on remaining shrouded in mystery. What a beautiful game.

Chinese clubs to pay 100% tax on foreign transfers

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The days of Chinese Super League sides spending eye-popping figures on a handful of international superstars are over — either that, or those figures are about to double — for now, at least.

[ MORE: Oscar given 8-game ban for petulant display in China ]

China’s Football Association announced Thursday that, effective immediately, any foreign player signed for a fee exceeding $6.63 million would be subject to a 100-percent tax on top of the fee paid to acquire the player. The tax will remain in effect until the end of China’s ongoing transfer window, July 14. The tax will also apply to Chinese players signed for a fee exceeding $3 million.

It’s Chinese authorities’ latest attempt to prevent big spending by CSL clubs, which has in every instance been detrimental to the development of young Chinese players making their way through the academy system. The taxed money will then be reinvested in “youth training, construction of public sporting facilities and scientific progress in football development,” according to a statement by the CFA.

Just last week, China was eliminated from contention to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia. The only time China has ever qualified for the World Cup was in 2002.

Young Englishman Oxford goes abroad, to Gladbach, on loan

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MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany (AP) Borussia Moenchengladbach has signed English central defender Reece Oxford on loan for the season from Premier League club West Ham.

Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl says “Oxford has gone through all the England youth teams and is one of the biggest defensive talents in Britain.”

The 18-year-old Oxford, who spent the second half of last season on loan at second-division club Reading, is Gladbach’s fifth arrival of the off-season.

Qatar stadium safety concerns again raised by death investigation

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An investigation into why a British man fell to his death on a building site for the 2022 Qatar soccer World Cup has raised concerns about stadium roof safety.

World Cup organizers on Thursday released partial findings of an assessment of the accident at the Khalifa International Stadium, but said the full report cannot be released while local authorities continue their own investigation. It is one of two work-related deaths detailed in Qatar’s latest welfare report on preparations for the 2022 soccer tournament, which currently involves 12,367 workers on eight construction sites.

The 40-year-old British man fell 39 meters in January after one end of the roof catwalk he was installing dropped and a safety rope snapped.

“During the course of the investigation, the team had raised concerns with the method of installation of the raised catwalk system,” the welfare report from Qatar’s World Cup organizers stated. “This required further investigation regarding the method itself and the supervision skills of the specialist contractor staff.”

It has led to “corrective and preventative actions” being implemented by the contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, along with safety checks across all stadium sites, the report said.

“These included a review of all working-at-height activities across all SC projects, an enhanced process when reviewing specialist activities within construction sites, and a detailed review of all roof and gantry designs,” the Supreme Committee overseeing stadium projects added.

The British man is the only European working on Qatar stadiums to have died in a country relying on a low-paid migrant workforce from south Asia to prepare for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Six non-work related deaths have been announced by organizers, with most suffering from heart or breathing problems.

Hassan Al Thawadi, the supreme committee’s secretary general, said medical staff are trying to raise awareness of the “importance of healthy lifestyles” by evaluating diets and identifying health issues, including hypertension and diabetes. Cooling helmets have also been developed in an attempt to make it safer for workers on outdoor sites during the searing summer heat.

World Cup preparations have been dogged by concerns about the welfare of workers since the natural gas-rich Gulf nation won the FIFA vote in 2010. Mounting international pressure led to Qatar raising living standards and worker rights. Inspections led to three contractors being blacklisted and 14 entities “demobilized” from projects for failing to tackle welfare issues, the World Cup report reveals.

“There is still work to be done to ensure our workers’ welfare standards continue to have a tangible impact on the ground and we are comprehensive in our attempts to tackle the myriad of issues facing migrant workers across the SC program,” Khalid Al-Kubaisi, who oversees worker welfare at the Supreme Committee, said in a statement.

The report has been released as Qatar is gripped by a diplomatic crisis that has seen it isolated in the region. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar earlier this month and blocked air, sea and land traffic over its support for Islamist groups and ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the allegations are politically motivated.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million — a new Liverpool club record — and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.