Sepp Blatter Drops the Big One

In an extraordinary policy reversal, FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced today that, at his request, the Executive Committee has agreed to "re-open" the ISL bribery case and allow the public release of the results of the Swiss judicial investigation.

Furthermore, Blatter said that the case will be reviewed by "an independent organization outside of FIFA so they can delve into this file and extract its conclusions and present them to us."

Who this might be exactly was not revealed but he emphasized that " the executive committee - it is not the body that can take sanctions or release anyone".

One caveat was included, however:

"the Executive Committee stated its full support for the release of the dossier on the ISL-ISMM case. However, this can only be done after a thorough legal analysis because of the complexity of the matter. The case will be opened at the next meeting of the Executive Committee in December 2011. It will then be given to an independent body for further examination."

But in point of fact there's really no turning back at this point.

This is a stunning reversal after years of paying some of the best lawyers in Switzerland millions of dollars (of FIFA money) to block the release of the documents which, reportedly, implicate several current ExCo members including Brazil FA President, ExCo member and President of World Cup 2014, Richard Texiera and Paraguayan ExCo member Nicolas Leoz.

Texiera's former father-in-law, Joao Havelange, the man who Blatter succeeded as President of FIFA, was reportedly also the recipient of huge bribes.

ISL was the Swiss company which owned, at one time, TV and marketing rights to the FIFA World Cup, the Olympic games and World Tennis, among other properties.

These rights were mostly won by the simple expedient of bribing the living hell out of the granting organization, with payments to FIFA ExCo members estimated to total as much as US$100 million.

This all came to light in 2002 when ISL suddenly collapsed after having sold the rights to that year's World Cup without giving FIFA a dime, leaving the organization literally dead broke on the eve of the finals and, significantly, a FIFA Presidential election.

The federations were in an uproar because of course this meant that they wouldn't be getting their lovely bag of money to bring home from Korea; Blatter's Presidency was in serious trouble.

At literally the last minute, with the tournament about to begin, Blatter managed to work a deal wherein he used the TV and marketing rights for the 2006 World Cup in Germany as collateral for a huge bank loan which allowed him to give everyone their cut in the nick of time.

The federations were somewhat mollified, and Chuck Blazer took the podium just prior to the voting and made an impassioned plea to the delegates to re-elect Blatter because, essentially - they were going to get their money. One of the more crass campaign speeches in history but he knew his audience and Sepp got another four years.

The bribery aspect of this came to light when it was discovered that a million dollars worth of ISL bribe money was accidentally sent to FIFA instead of the intended person. FIFA quickly passed it along but not before the Swiss legal officials caught wind of it.

They opened and investigation in the Canton of Zug, where FIFA HQ is located, that included police raids of several offices and subsequent truckloads of documents being hauled away.

These are the records which everyone has wanted to see ever since the case was completed, and which Blatter has been fighting over for years, saying that "the case is closed" and did not merit further discussion.

Now the fight is over, or will be in December when the records finally become public.

Sepp's problem has always been twofold: first he wanted to protect his crooked allies, but mostly he's been desperate to keep the extent of his own involvement from becoming public knowledge.

Nobody really thinks that he took a big pile of ISL money - although it's possible. Rather, it's expected that the records will reveal that he himself knowingly presided over an orgy of bribery, greed and avarice that showered his officials with cash while he did nothing.

Additionally, Blatter announced the creation of four task forces, mandated to propose reforms:

• “Task Force Revision of Statutes”, chaired by Dr Theo Zwanziger (Germany)

• “Task Force FIFA Ethics Committee”, chaired by the Chairman of the Ethics Committee, Claudio Sulser (Switzerland)

• “Task Force Transparency and Compliance”, chaired by Juan Ángel Napout (President of the Paraguayan FA) and Frank Van Hattum (President of the New Zealand FA)

• “Task Force Football 2014” (operating since May 2011), chaired by Franz Beckenbauer (Germany)

Additionally, FIFA will create a “Committee Good Governance” (to be established at the next meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee in December 2011) which, among other tasks, will oversee reforms undertaken by FIFA. It will comprise of representatives not only from the international football family but also from other spheres

This will be accompanied by something he's calling the “FIFA Good Governance” road map for the period between now and the 2013 FIFA Congress according to which the first reform proposals will be submitted by the four Task Forces to the Executive Committee in December 2011.