The End of Sepp?

FIFA President Sepp Blatter addressed FIFA's employees today, reiterating that he's done "nothing wrong" and that he's "cooperating fully" with Swiss authorities.

He says that he's "not going anywhere". He may be wrong.

Because while he apparently intends to hang on to his office for every last minute he can - even if it means the end of FIFA - in the end it isn't going to be up to him.

If this turns out to be Sepp Blatter's last week in his stunningly opulent corner office at FIFA headquarters perched on a hill high above Zurich, then the irony will be that the Ethics procedures he put in place to cover his own ass will be what brings him down.

Of course he could have - should have - bowed out back in May as he swore he would do four years agoinstead of breaking his promise and standing for election one more time.  Alternatively, he could have actually resigned in early June when he, you know, said he was resigning and when most everyone felt it was the decent thing to do.

Instead, hermetically sealed in an insular cocoon of his own careful construction, he believed that he could ride out this storm just like he's ridden out so many others over the years. There are even those close to him who are privately claiming that he was planning to hold on to the office instead of giving it up next February,

However that may be, Sepp missed the opportunity to leave office with some dignity. Now it seems that, while he likely won't be forced to do a perp walk out the front door with a trench coat concealing the handcuffs, neither will his exit be accompanied by tearful goodbye speeches punctuated with the cheers of the 400 or so loyal minions he has surrounded himself with.

Everyone expected big news on the FIFA front last week; on Monday, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch flew to Zurich to conduct a joint media conference with Swiss AG Michael Lauber, but they offered virtually nothing newsworthy, saying only that the investigation was continuing and that more people were going to be indicted. Sometime. Probably.

Then there was Jack Warner's Friday court date down in Port of Spain, where his attorneys were going to argue that the new AG had missed the deadline for certifying AG Lynch's extradition request.

Unfortunately, Uncle Jack no longer has the political juice that he used to; the party that he put into power with his wallet (and which he served as chairman and in high cabinet posts) was repudiated at the polls two weeks ago and Jack himself - cruelest cut - lost the Parliament seat from Chagunias West which it once appeared he could hold a good ten years after he died. 

Trinidad & Tobago's new government being now made up of people he's spent the last 20 years denouncing, insulting and ridiculing at every turn, he suddenly found himself friendless and at the mercy of an entire country which now just mostly wishes he would go away.

Fortunately, Ms. Lynch and the Federal Bureau of Prisons has some accommodation plans awaiting his now more or less assured arrival, although that will have to wait until a final hearing on the merits in December.

Then, just for a little comic relief, FIFA's Executive Committee was to meet on Thursday and Friday, providing Sepp with another opportunity to pretend that his Comically Insincere Reform Movement was an actual thing instead of a pathetic Kabuki theater of crapola.

The only interesting part was going to be how many ExCo members - aside from the ones who currently reside in Zurich jails - were going to skip coming altogether for fear of being arrested by a suddenly invigorated Swiss Prosecutor.

Like, for example, the President of the Brazilian federation Marco Polo Del Nero, the man who, when he caught wind of the pre dawn arrests at the FIFA Congress last May, left his wife, his children and his luggage at the hotel, grabbed a cab to the airport and scurried back to Brazil, skipping the Presidential election altogether.

He was an ExCo no-show, even though no one currently seems to have much interest in locking him up. Apparently he knows something we don't.

It was something of a disappointment then when none of the above provided much more than a brief amusement. Nothing to see here.

Then, on Friday morning, while the ExCo was still in session, 15 staff from the Swiss Attorney General's Office - including a number of Prosecutors and Swiss police - stormed though the front doors of FIFA's headquarters

They presented search warrants to the security staff and front desk people and proceeded to ransack various rooms including the Sanctum Sanctorum of Sepp's private office, carting away boxes of files, computers and whatever else they felt like taking.

Then, the prosecutors waited quietly until the meeting ended, approaching Blatter as he exited the meeting and took him to a conference room near his office,. There, he was officially informed that he is the target of a criminal probe where they told him he was being investigated on suspicion of a crime and interrogated the old boy for "several hours".

It's important to note that as of this writing Blatter has not been charged with anything, either in Switzerland or the US.

And that's where the whole thing gets a little weird.

This whole investigation seems to have been prompted by a Swiss TV station called SFR, who somehow got a hold of a copy a of a letter showing that in 2005 Blatter sold the Caribbean basin World Cup TV broadcast rights for 2010 and 2014 to the Caribbean Football Union for $600,000.

The Swiss AG's office says that this letter proves that Blatter made a deal "unfavorable for FIFA," and that it "violated his fiduciary duties and acted against the interest of FIFA."

While the deal itself specifies that the CFU is to peddle the rights to various regional broadcasters and then split the profits with FIFA, the Swiss are saying that the rights were worth a whole lot more and by lowballing them to Warner he was cheating FIFA out of money.

An odd argument, surely, particularly in light of the history, which is that Blatter also sold the 2002 and 2006 TV rights to the CFU, and the price was one US dollar. Each.

This has been widely known for a long long time. The reason FIFA gave was that the rights weren't worth much - which is probably true - and anyway there was no marketing rights outfit willing to buy them, also probably true.

It's not like we're talking the US and Mexico here; this is Anguilla, Bermuda and St. Martin we're talking about, and ten or 15 years ago there was even less interest than there is now. An island with 40,000 people of whom only about 1000 give a damn isn't exactly broadcast gold.

Of course FIFA always made this about the Caribbean: here are some rights that nobody big wants, but if you can talk someone into putting some games on the air and make some money on them besides, great: use the cash to build fields, buy balls, etc. Go with God.

The truth of course is that with these TV rights, like with quite literally everything else, Jack Warner stole them. He signed them over to a company he owned and then set about finding TV stations who would pay him something for them. Reportedly -no one knows for sure - he made a couple million in Jamaica and a little more here and there.

A tidy little profit, which he pocketed, and everybody knew he did. Hell, even I knew about it and wrote about it. You can look it up.

So if this new deal for 2010 and 2014 paid FIFA $600k up front and 50% of the take, that's one hell of a big improvement over the previous deal. Rather than holding a fire sale, Sepp was driving a hard bargain.

The problem of course is that Jack once again a) signed the rights over to himself, b) apparently never paid FIFA the 600 large and c) never paid FIFA their half of the profits.

Think of Jack Warner as the Robert DeNiro character in Goodfellas: once he has his hands on the money, he sees it as his. Always did.

Now of course the truth is that Blatter surely knew, based on 20 years experience, that Warner wasn't going to pay FIFA a dime. It's how he had always operated. Whether it was $750,000 in earthquake relief for Haiti or that $10 million loan FIFA cosigned for (Jack never made a single payment) or the money from a T&T national team match, Jack simply hoovered up every last nickel.

So yes, Blatter made a bad deal, but not the way the Swiss are saying: essentially it may not have been the best TV contract in the world, but it was hardly a crime unless you knew upfront that FIFA would never see a dime.

Bottom line, Blatter signed a contract with the CFU for regional TV rights that no one else was bidding on with the idea that the CFU - and all those little ball-kicking urchins on all those fly-speck islands - would benefit.

That the President of the CFU stole the rights and pocketed the cash isn't Sepp's fault. Or at least, that's going to be the claim, and how do you prove otherwise?

BE THAT AS IT MAY, however:

Sepp may still be out of office before the end of the week.

Think back to May 27 when Zurich police rounded up all those FIFA bigwigs and scattered them around in various jails so they couldn't talk to each other .

You may not recall this but none of them had been charged with anything. They were the targets of a criminal investigation. To this day only Jeff Webb has been formally charged with anything.

Nonetheless, all seven of them were immediately suspended, pending the results of the investigation, by FIFA's Ethics Committee. It's how they operate. It's what they always do. Rather than keep someone around while the police are sniffing their knickers, they suspend them. Webb, Li, all the rest: suspended as soon as a criminal probe is announced.

So the Ethics Committee is in a tight spot here: in order to be consistent, not show favoritism, and demonstrate that FIFA is serious about cleaning things up, they have no choice except to suspend Sepp immediately. Like, today or tomorrow.

If they don't, then the whole thing will have proven to be a fraud, and it's not an exaggeration to say that FIFA can't survive.

So when the Swiss OAG announced that t they had opened “criminal proceedings” against Blatter on “suspicion of criminal mismanagement as well as – alternatively – on suspicion of misappropriation” they threw down the gauntlet.

Stay tuned. It's getting fun.