Catch 2022

At long, long last, FIFA is now facing a threat that they can't make go away by a) appointing a committee b) issuing a report two years later c) ignoring what it says and d) declaring the totally unsolved problem solved once and for all:

The money is walking away.

FIFA's biggest cash cow is the stunning piles of cash airdropped on Sepp's palatial Zurich headquarters building by the organizations' six major sponsors: Sony, Coca-Cola, Emirates Airlines, Kia, adidas and Visa.

This Holy Septuplet of Moolah, which collectively kick in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, is the main reason that Seppy gets to take the occasional break from a long hard day of accepting ridiculous "Greatest Human in History" medals from the Republic of Slobbovia and Outer Cantstandyastan for a quick Scrooge McDuck-esque dip in the vast pile of money he stores in the basement vault.

Yes, FIFA also soaks the world's TV networks for insane amounts as well, but they'd pay anybody that money in return for the programming. If you and I were able to get the 32 best national teams in the world to show up in Biloxi and play a championship, they'd pay us too. It's not a tough thing, selling a hundred million pairs of eyes to a broadcast network.

The major sponsors are different. A big part of Blatter's influence is based on the myth that he has a special relationship with world business moguls and it's his personal charm and business acumen that keeps that cash flowing from some of the biggest corporations on the planet straight through Zurich and on to the bank accounts of a couple hundred local governing federations so that they can continue to rent luxury SUV's, hire high end hookers and pad their retirement accounts.

In recognition of which they have continually returned him to office in election after election and have always appeared more than ready and willing to continue to do so as long as Jerome Valcke is able to prop the Old Man's molding carcass into a chair.

The only crack in this massive monolith of money appeared last June when (as discussed in this very space) five of the six Sacred Cows issued official statements expressing concern over the whole Qatar bidding bribery scandal. (Only Emirates Airlines refrained from joining the chorus).

FIFA assured all and sundry that their Ethics Committee was on the job and that any wrongdoing would be rooted out and dealt with severely.

All of which is the main reason they couldn't wait to declare that "closure" had been reached on the issue a couple weeks ago with the astonishing decision by the so-called adjudicatory chamber of the Ethics Committee that, aside from England kissing Jack Warner's ass, nothing much untoward had occurred.

Case closed. Glad that's over with. Next?

(Garcia's report also noted that they had evidence of "some phone calls" from a top American FIFA official (not mentioning a portly gent in Trump Tower by name) to several ExCo members asking for their support for the US bid, which may have been - well, we're not sure exactly what but possibly really, like, unfair. Or something. Meanwhile Qatar had private jets circling the globe airdropping large bags of money on voters, their children, their neighbors, their mistresses their pool boys and the guy who washes their shirts. No problem there, though, as long as they didn't make any phone calls.)

But a funny thing happened: the sponsors decided they weren't buying it.

The first to bail was, surprisingly, the one outfit which hadn't joined the chorus back in June: Emirates. On November 4 they gave FIFA notice that they are done with FIFA after this year.

FIFA tried to back-door spin it as a political move which involved Qatar's support for ISIL or ISIS or USISL or whatever they are this week.

(An interesting episode either did or didn't occur at the same time during an FA banquet in Norway, where Sepp Blatter was reported to have told the audience in closed door remarks that Qatar's financial support of the innocents-slaughtering and beheading terrorists of ISIL disqualified them from hosting a World Cup and that the tournament would have to be re-bid.

FIFA quickly denied that he had said any such thing, the head of Norway's FA agreed and the whole kerfuffle died down. Except that a several people still claim they heard him say it. Just another FIFA mystery. Add it to the list)

But earlier today international reports are claiming that Sony, disgusted and embarrassed by the Ethics Committee whitewash, have privately notified FIFA that they too are finished sending money to Sepp's coffers.

Sony's deal was worth an estimated $280 million and whether or not they can come up with someone - Samsung has been mentioned - to take their place, the damage is substantial.

And since this follows a very public and very clear threat from Coca-Cola - a spokesman told the media that "The current conflicting perspectives regarding the investigation are disappointing. Our expectation is that this will be resolved quickly in a transparent and efficient manner.", adding that "anything which distracts from the World Cup (ie. "what they pay for") is a matter of grave concern" to the company - Sepp is staring at the one thing which can threaten his position:

Loss of money.

Combined, Emirates and Sony pumped almost $600 million into FIFA over the last cycle; add in Coke, which seems to be on the edge, and Sepp could be looking ay losing close to a billion dollars.

Just this month.

At some point, saving Qatar's ass just isn't worth it.

Not to mention the fact that there's an election coming in about six months and "My arrogant stupidity just cost us a billion freaking bucks" isn't the kind of thing the assembled FA Presidents, who show up intending to fill their pockets with cash, are going to want to hear.

Which brings us to where the investigation currently stands and suffice it to say that, FIFA's pronouncements notwithstanding, this thing isn't even remotely close to being "over".

In fact, if you didn't know better, you'd swear it was just getting started.

After adjudicatory chamber Chairman Hans-Joachim Eckart announced his ludicrous decision that absolutely nothing of much concern had occurred with the Qatar bid and investigatory chamber Chairman Michael Garcia announced that Eckart had distorted, falsified and lied about what he'd actually reported, FIFA hastily arranged a face-to-face for the two last Thursday, hoping that they could paper the thing over somehow.

Apparently unable to agree on much of anything, in the grand tradition of goalkeepers everywhere: they punted.

What Garcia wants is for his entire report to be made public: this would be the "transparency" the sponsors keep talking about.

Eckart and FIFA claim this is impossible because names are named.

So they've handed the entire deal over the FIFA Audit Committee Chairman Domenico Scala to decide.

Scala says that he intends to put together a 40 page summary of the evidence and submit it to the Executive Committee and let tham decide whether to release the full 350 page report, which they have not seen. Which would look like nothing more than one more way to avoid releasing a damned thing.

The only caveat is that this isn't your grandfather's ExCo.

Since the 2010 vote, the vast majority of the worst, bribe-soaked miscreants are gone and their places have been taken by people who a) didn't have a thing to do with any of it b) would love to save FIFA's reputation from the junk pile c) wouldn't be particularly sad to see Blatter gone and d) are more interested in keeping the sponsor money flowing than they are in making sure the Emir of Qatar doesn't throw a hissy fit.

Interestingly, despite the fact that Eckart says he found that nobody did anything much wrong, FIFA has been forced, under Swiss law, to refer one or more files to the federal police since it's a criminal violation to come across evidence of law breaking and not report it.

So FIFA is saying that a) Eckart found no wrongdoing but b) some people should be tried and sent to jail.

In the meantime, FIFA is holding their collective breath, waiting to see whether other sponsors - including the second tier partners like McDonalds and Budweiser - are going to join the line of people headed for the exits.

For years now people have been asking what it would take to finally effect some change at FIFA and get rid of Sepp Blatter.

The answer has always been the same:

Hit FIFA in the wallet. It's the only thing they understand.

 

 

(Note: The title above was suggested by the surprisingly non-existent Dan Loney. Since I'm sure he doesn't want me to comment on his actual personhood, or lack thereof, I'll only say that I hope that lovely little girl I met who was ostensibly his daughter wasn't a rental)