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.

Nothing to separate Portland and 10-man LAFC

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There was entertainment value in Los Angeles FC’s potential playoff preview with the Portland Timbers on Sunday in the City of Angels, but all that arrived was a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: Atlanta 1-1 Seattle ]

Both Giovani Savarese’s Timbers and Bob Bradley‘s nickname-free expansion club remain in the West’s Top Four. PLAFC remains unbeaten at home during their maiden voyage through Major League Soccer.

Adama Diomande came close for the hosts, who finished with 10-men when Lee Nguyen went studs-up on Sebastian Blanco‘s thigh for a pretty easy red card (though it took some time for Silviu Petrescu to produce the red).

VIDEO: France stars projected onto Arc de Triomphe

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If France’s players had any doubt about the level of import their World Cup title had back home, it was erased when their photos were projected onto one of the most celebrated monuments in the world.

The photos of Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and company made their way onto the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, hours after France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup Final.

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The Arc de Triomphe honors those who died in the French Revolution and early 19th century wars, and sits above France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

How humbling must it be for those players to grace such a heavy monument (both in weight and substance).

Dalic: In one day, Croatia went from lucky to unlucky

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Ante Cacic’s Croatia was on pace to miss out on the World Cup.

Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia rallied the troops to second place in their qualifying group, a playoff defeat of Greece, and a run to the World Cup Final.

Pretty decent stuff.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

And surely the 51-year-old will reflect on that, probably even this evening, but he’s more focused on a letdown after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to highly-favored France.

Key to the match was a penalty awarded to France when a partially-obscured Mario Mandzukic handled a ball inside the 18, leading to Antoine Griezmann’s pivotal goal.

The PK was awarded via VAR, and France went up 2-1 en route to a three-goal lead. From the AFP:

“I never comment on referees but in a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty,” said Dalic.

“It in no way diminishes France’s win. We were a bit unlucky. Maybe in the first six games we were favored by luck and today we weren’t.

“I have to congratulate my players. Maybe today we played our best game at these championships. Against such a strong side as France you must not make mistakes. We are a bit sad but we must also be proud of what we’ve done.”

Croatia had two-thirds of the ball and doubled France’s shot attempts, and Dalic isn’t the least bit controversial in wondering whether the match is much different if that penalty goes unawarded by referee Nestor Pitana.

Atlanta comes back to draw 10-man Seattle (video)

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A scrappy if not downright venomous affair between the lowly Seattle Sounders and high-flying Atlanta United ended in a 1-1 draw in Georgia on Sunday.

The Sounders went ahead through a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty kick, awarded via VAR a la this morning’s World Cup Final, but Atlanta leveled the score with a highlight which show every bit of the game story.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Just check Josef Martinez’s barking at Stefan Frei, who made an uncharacteristic error on the play, after his 19th goal of the season (Nice cross, Julian Gressel).

Martinez needs nine more goals to break the MLS single season record, and he has 13 games to score them.

Jordan McCrary was sent off for Seattle in the 63rd minute for a second yellow, but Seattle navigated the final half hour or so to scoop up an unlikely point.

Atlanta still sits first with its earned point but opens the door for New York City FC to reach the top of the table when it plays its match-in-hand, while Seattle is now 11 points back of the West’s final playoff spot.