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Best of Slow Journalism: FIFA under Sepp

Photo: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

“While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA.”

These were Sepp Blatter’s words as he announced his resignation to a FIFA press conference in Zurich on Tuesday 2nd June. Described by Guardian columnist Marina Hyde as “the most successful non-homicidal dictator of the past century”, Blatter resigned after a 17-year tenure during which he was re-elected four times.

As Blatter was campaigning for a fifth term as president in late April, Tariq Panja, Andrew Martin and Vernon Silver wrote an incisive investigation into the Swiss football kingpin and the nature of FIFA’s alleged corruption for Bloomberg Businessweek. In ‘A League of His Own: How Sepp Blatter controls soccer’, Panja, Martin and Silver point to FIFA’s electoral system in which each member territory gets one vote in leadership contests, regardless of their size or population.

“On Blatter’s electoral map, the 5,200 residents of Montserrat are as important as the 200 million in Brazil,” the authors write. A lot of money is sent to such tiny nations, for “solidarity” programmes. The Cayman Islands (pop. 58,000), ranked 191st in the global soccer leagues, are not a force to be reckoned with on the pitch, but have been granted $2m since 2002 to fund a new headquarters and world-class pitches.

Panja, Martin and Silver also identify more worrying events. They track down receipts from a Trinidad company “whose address doesn’t appear to exist” for goods supposedly given to Haiti after its 2010 earthquake by FIFA. The president of Haiti’s soccer association claims he never received the generators, food and other supplies listed in the receipts.

Reading this excellent piece of long-form, investigative work adds context to Blatter’s resignation and hints at what the future might hold in store for FIFA under a new leadership. You can read the piece here.

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