When a huge corruption takes place in a huge nonprofit organization – the 2015 FIFA corruption scandal

The FIFA World Cup that takes place every four years is one of the most celebrated sports gatherings in the world. Millions of soccer fans around the globe would go to the stadiums or sit in front of their televisions for hours, while the players will toil hard on the fields hoping to represent the pride of their home countries and catch the eyes of scouts of prestigious soccer clubs. The entire atmosphere seems positive and meaningful, to say the least.

Thus, to many soccer fans it might sound surprising or even demeaning to say that FIFA is actually one of the most corrupt organizations in human history. After all, they claimed to be “non-commercial”and “not for profit” that aims at “developing the game of football around the world.” How can an “NGO” as large and well-known as FIFA be that corrupt, if at all?

Yet anyone following the news in recent years will know that the answer to the question above is absolutely affirmative. Earlier in May this year, the FBI raided a hotel in Zurich, Switzerland to arrest 14 high ranked officials affiliated or related to FIFA on charges that they in total received $150 million over the past 24 years.  In June, US federal prosecutors  These officials were planning to attend the 65th FIFA congress, a meeting that would discuss the upcoming presidential election. One of the candidate is Sepp Blatter, who won the votes just a few days after the arrest took place. This man himself has been the subject of constant criticisms on issues related to corruption and financial mismanagement. He and his closest executives were suspended of their positions and put under investigations of corruption in October.

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Rumors of corruption is nothing new to FIFA. As early as 2006, a British investigative journalist wrote a book aptly named Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote-Rigging and Ticket Scandals, disclosing facts of national officials paying FIFA officers to win tournament contracts, including the World Cup. Sarcastically enough, when a documentary version of the disclosure is broadcast-ed on British television, even the Prime Minister James Cameron criticized the timing of the broadcast and claimed that it might hurt England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup. Eventually the 2018 bid went to Russia, a result of Russian soccer officials giving enough cash and gifts to FIFA to have the spot secured. The elections of FIFA officials in the past decade have also known to be inundated with vote-rigging and vote-trading… all of which point to the very corrupt nature of this organization. 

Looking back at the series of scandals, one lesson everyone should learn is that corruption doesn’t just happen within particular governments or corporations – it can totally thrive among international organizations. Yet the biggest challenge of dealing with corruption in international organizations is the very fact that they are international and do not belong to any particular jurisdiction; without collective judicial efforts from multiple governments, it is very hard to completely stop the dirty money transactions flowing from one country to another.

And we should be especially cautious and vigilant when those IOs enjoy so much popularity that they can magically evoke the public’s desire to spend money that will eventually flow to the pockets of shameless executives. After all, an avid fan would not hesitate to spend hundreds of dollars buying the ticket to a match that he could totally watch on his TV back home. People’s unfettered aspirations for soccer are exploited, taken advantage of, by those who want to extract unjustified profits. 

Soccer, just like any other sports, can stimulate adrenaline rushes among people, and that’s exactly what makes it so fascinating. However, just like too much adrenaline can kill people, the soccer industry without proper regulation can breed enormous corruption at the expense of every soccer lover. FIFA got caught this time, but it is very likely that even more inside scandals remain uncovered, and it’s also possible that similar cases of corruption exist in other international sports associations. We should always be aware of such problems and make sure that soccer is used to serve for good, not evil. 

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