An unprecedented blow to FIFA’s long-assumed reputation of corruption has reportedly begun in Zurich, Switzerland just two days before the election of a new president is scheduled to take place.
According to a report by the New York Times dropped late Tuesday night, numerous top FIFA officials are in the process of being arrested as the soccer governing body convenes for the annual congress. Those arrested include executive committee members Jeffrey Webb (current president of CONCACAF) and Eugenio Figueredo (former CONMEBOL president), and disgraced former member Jack Warner.
The report states current FIFA president and overwhelming election favorite Sepp Blatter is not one of those with charges currently brought against them. Swiss authorities told the Associated Press later that six FIFA officials had been arrested, although the New York Times report stated over 10 were being charged, and that not all officials to be arrested were present in Zurich.
The report states that the Swiss police acted upon the request of United States law enforcement. It’s been widely reported that the FBI has been conducting a deep and involved investigation of FIFA and its alleged internal corruption. Over 12 Swiss police officials, dressed in plain clothes, descended upon the Baur au Lac hotel unannounced to present warrants and evidence and begin their arrests.
A glaring quote also comes from the report, as the Times quoted a law enforcement official who said, “We’re struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did. It just seemed to permeate every element of the federation and was just their way of doing business. It seems like this corruption was institutionalized.”
Sam Borden, one of the New York Times authors credited on the report, tweeted the following picture from inside the hotel:
Another NYT contributor to the report, Michael S. Schmidt was present in the hotel as well:
Schmidt later tweeted that Swiss agents exited the hotel with bags of evidence. The FIFA officials will be officially charged with wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering for incidents over the past 20 years, including incidents involving World Cup bidding processes, according to the report.
Other FIFA officials eventually showed up on site:
It’s unclear at this point how much of an affect this will have on Sepp Blatter himself with the election only two days away, but upon first glance it seems that his position of power should remain unaffected unless he himself is indicted and charged with corruption. Blatter has repeatedly turned on loyal supporters who found themselves exposed, distancing himself from them and their actions no matter how clear the links.
However, this is a massive legal blow to the organization as a whole, and could be the first step towards widespread whistleblowing against others not yet brought in. What could be a gamechanger would be if this causes major sponsors such as Visa, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Budweiser to pull the plug on their relationship with FIFA.