Sepp Blatter

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Hope Solo alleges sexual assault by former FIFA president Sepp Blatter

5 Comments

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has come under fire once again, but this time it is completely unrelated to corruption charges.

[ MORE: Which MLS expansion sides are the favorites? ]

Hope Solo has spoken out against the exiled soccer figure after the former U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper made a claim stating that she was assaulted by the ex-FIFA president at the FIFA Ballon d’Or awards in January 2013.

[ MORE: MLS provides an update on Beckham’s Miami franchise ]

Per her remarks, Solo alleges that she had “Sepp Blatter grab my ass” prior to the two going on stage to present her former USWNT teammate Abby Wambach with the Women’s Player of the Year award.

“I was in shock and completely thrown off,” Solo told the Guardian. “I had to quickly pull myself together to present my team-mate with the biggest award of her career and celebrate with her in that moment, so I completely shifted my focus to Abby.”

In its report, the Guardian notes that video of the event shows Blatter trailing Solo as the two enter the stage together prior to presenting the award to Wambach. However, there is no direct proof of the allegations outside of Solo’s remarks.

“I had Sepp Blatter grab my ass,” she said. “It was at the Ballon d’Or, right before I went on stage. [Sexual harassment] has been normalised.”

Blatter has since responded to the accusations through a spokesman, saying, “This allegation is ridiculous.”

Amid various sexual allegations that have arisen throughout the American community as of late, particularly in Hollywood, Solo took to social media in October with a post regarding the subject.

Russia glad to welcome Blatter, Platini as World Cup guests

Getty Images
1 Comment

MOSCOW (AP) President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia “would be glad” to see banned former soccer leaders Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini in Russia next year at the World Cup.

Though banned from soccer duty for six and four years, respectively, Blatter and Platini were the presidents of FIFA and UEFA when Russia won the 2018 hosting contest seven years ago.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

FIFA ethics rules allow Blatter and Platini to attend games but not engage in official soccer business.

Blatter publicly accepted Putin’s World Cup invitation in March 2016, before his ban for financial wrongdoing with Platini was upheld on appeal.

Peskov says Friday, “Putin has a long and, you may say, friendly relationship with Blatter. He knows Platini well, too.”

Report: German publication has full FIFA corruption report

Photo by Stuart Franklin - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
1 Comment

The unedited 2014 report into World Cup bidding published by Michael Garcia has been ‘leaked’ into the press by German publication Bild.

FIFA had released a 42-page version of the report that claimed to clear corruption allegations against Qatar. This “suppressed” report is over 400 pages.

Garcia quit his job as investigator with the FIFA ethics committee in 2014, saying he believed progress in reforming FIFA had slowed considerably.

[ MORE: Chelsea sells Traore ]

Bild said it will publish more information and the full report on Tuesday, but the BBC notes a couple interesting facets of the initial release:

  • “Three Fifa executive members were flown to a party in Rio in a private jet belonging to the Qatari federation before the vote for 2018 and 2022 hosting rights.”
  • “Bild’s report includes details of a $2m (£1.6m) sum allegedly paid to the 10-year-old daughter of a Fifa official.”

Before you overreact, the 10-year-old is an incredibly gifted footballer.

The reporter who filed the story says the report shows no proof of a bought bid, but that it is like “a puzzle.”

Swiss prosecutors confirm about 25 FIFA investigations

Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) About 25 separate investigations of suspected corruption linked to FIFA and World Cup bidding are being led by federal prosecutors in Switzerland, the country’s office for the attorney general said Friday.

The office of Michael Lauber confirmed the scale of “football-related cases” after securing a first conviction since its FIFA probes began in 2014.

Cases were not specified, but criminal proceedings are open against former FIFA officials Sepp Blatter and Jerome Valcke, and some 2006 World Cup organizers, including Franz Beckenbauer.

[ MORE: Leicester nabs Hull’s Maguire ]

Swiss and American prosecutors worked together on a guilty plea made in a Brooklyn federal courthouse on Thursday by Jorge Arzuaga, a former employee of Swiss private banks from Argentina.

Arzuaga admitted to working with former FIFA finance chairman Julio Grondona and others in a money-laundering conspiracy linked to bribes. Grondona was senior vice president at FIFA when he died in 2014.

Arzuaga forfeited $650,000 in “unlawfully obtained” bonuses to the Swiss treasury, the federal prosecution office said.

The banker, who worked in Zurich for Credit Suisse and Julius Baer, is due to be sentenced on Jan. 4.

Lauber was invited by FIFA in November 2014 to begin investigating suspected wrongdoing in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests which were won by Russia and Qatar, respectively.

“To date, 178 reports of suspected money-laundering transactions have been received in connection with the football investigations,” Lauber’s office said.

In May 2015, the scope of Swiss and American cooperation to prosecute corruption linked to FIFA was revealed when seven officials, including two FIFA vice presidents, were arrested in early morning hotel raids in Zurich. FIFA was also raided for evidence that day.

A further round of arrests, indictments and guilty pleas to U.S. courts were revealed in December 2015. More than 40 soccer and marketing officials have been indicted or made guilty pleas in the American case.

In Switzerland, authorities are now analyzing “seized documents containing some 19 terabytes of data,” Lauber’s office said Friday.

Infantino channels Blatter rather than marking clean break

Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
1 Comment

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) Regardless of his intentions, Gianni Infantino’s rhetoric and actions at his second congress leading world soccer did little to signal a clean break from the discredited Sepp Blatter era.

And that’s after having more than a year to re-shape the tainted FIFA presidency in his image and the chance to banish Blatter’s acolytes.

Critics contest that, the appearance at least, is of a governing body slipping back into the murky traits of the Blatter regime, with opaque backroom dealings, decisions taken within closed circles, and debate appearing to be suppressed.

The FIFA ethics prosecutor ousted by Infantino this week was explicit when asked how the past and present presidents differ: Only their Swiss birthplaces.

“One comes from Brig,” investigator Cornel Borbely said. “The other from Visp.”

There is a clear difference. Infantino is not accused of financial wrongdoing like Blatter, who ruled the game for 17 years before being banished from power in disgrace after it became clear how he enriched himself through leading FIFA.

Their thirst for power seems comparable at times, though, in the clandestine way decisions are made.

The manner in which Infantino has accumulated power is at odds with the recommendations of the reforms he helped to craft after the 2015 scandal. The presidency, crafted into an executive position by Blatter, was intended to become more ambassadorial in the new era with the secretary general gaining the authority of a CEO. At the FIFA Congress in Bahrain, Fatma Samoura marked her first year as secretary general by being relegated to a bit-part role.

The executive committee, so discredited under Blatter as members were led away in handcuffs and toppled on FIFA ethics violations, morphed into the council last year with a membership swelling to almost 40.

And far from the body becoming more transparent, members were warned about speaking publicly about the decisions immediately after Tuesday’s meeting in Manama. The need for clarity was heightened by the uncertainty over why Borbely was jettisoned along with ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert. FIFA’s hierarchy sidestepped requests for detail, taking almost 24 hours to formulate a partial response.

“(FIFA) has already lost the battle of public opinion, we had a good chance to rebuild that and we need to,” former presidential candidate Prince Ali said. “Things cannot be conducted behind closed doors. Everyone wants to know what is going on.”

The void gave Eckert and Borbely a clear run for a day to elevate their own importance to the ethics process and issue hyperbolic – but unchallenged – warnings about the fate of soccer.

The credentials of their replacements as head of the ethics chambers – a Colombian lawyer and Greek judge – have not been disputed. What remains a mystery is exactly why Eckert and Borbely were not only deemed inadequate but discovered their fates only as they flew to Bahrain where they were up for re-election.

After Borbely said his removal will stall the progress of hundreds of ethics cases, Infantino turned on his investigator by asking why the backlog was so big.

FIFA officials evaded questions for weeks about whether rumors Eckert and Borbely were being ditched were accurate, with the German council member indicating that he was misled by Samoura on the eve of Tuesday’s meeting. Reinhard Grindel demanded a “more transparent” process.

The need for more gender equality and geographic diversity was the reason eventually delivered by Infantino on Thursday. Although Borbely was replaced by a Colombian woman, Maria Claudia Rojas, the judge’s role passed from a 69-year-old white German to a 69-year-old white Greek in Vassilios Skouris.

Then there’s the curious case of Miguel Maduro, who was removed as head of the governance committee less than a year after being appointed at a time when Infantino was already on a mission to bring a wider geographic spread.

The 211 soccer federations have the final say approving committee members in the congress and could have rebuffed Infantino. It’s rare, however, to find any debate in the open parliament of soccer. Dissent isn’t encouraged.

“Bear in mind the majority of the congress are totally dependent on FIFA,” Prince Ali said, “so it is very hard to take an opposing view to a president.”

When there was an open clash of views on Thursday – between the Israelis and Palestinians – Infantino engineered a way to prevent the motion being voted on. The president, however, introduced a new proposal that handed power to his council to resolve the matter over settlement teams in the West Bank. Once again, Infantino secured the overwhelming backing of congress in a move Prince Ali branded undemocratic.

“The way business is conducted is the same,” Prince Ali, the Jordanian federation president, said as he compared the Blatter and Infantino administrations. “I don’t see the refreshing change, the openness, the transparency that everybody talks about really taking effect on the ground.”

Infantino counters that the “new FIFA is a democracy, it is not a dictatorship.” And there was refreshing messaging from Infantino – notably embracing corruption investigations publicly in a manner often deficient within the International Olympic Committee leadership.

But a strident warning to corrupt officials to leave soccer was eclipsed by the off-the-cuff attack on “fake news” and “FIFA bashing” he blamed for undermining his presidency

In blaming the messenger – before later backtracking in genial exchanges with reporters – Infantino was channeling the divisionary rhetoric of Blatter. And Blatter is the last person Infantino should be trying to emulate.

After a second congress was overshadowed by criticism of his use of presidential power, Infantino has two years remaining of his mandate to truly lead FIFA into the new, open era promised.