FIFA has admitted for the first time that World Cup voting was rigged in the past.
In legal papers filed in New York, FIFA is attempting to recover bribes and stolen money from 41 ex-officials and marketing executives including Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb, who have both served as FIFA vice president and CONCACAF president, and Chuck Blazer, the former CONCACAF general secretary.
The legal papers also reveal FIFA believes South Africa paid a bribe of $10m to rig World Cup votes and win the right to host the 2010 World Cup.
New FIFA president Gianni Infantino commented: “The defendants diverted this money not just from FIFA but from players, coaches and fans worldwide who benefit from the programmes that FIFA runs to develop and promote football.
“These dollars were meant to build football fields, not mansions and pools; to buy football kits, not jewellery and cars; and to fund youth player and coach development, not to underwrite lavish lifestyles for football and sports marketing executives.
“When FIFA recovers this money, it will be directed back to its original purpose, for the benefit and development of international football.
“The convicted defendants abused the positions of trust they held at FIFA and other international football organisations and caused serious and lasting damage to FIFA, its member associations and the football community.
“The monies they pocketed belonged to global football and were meant for the development and promotion of the game. FIFA as the world governing body of football wants that money back and we are determined to get it no matter how long it takes.”
FIFA has been in crisis since May 2015, when a US investigation exposed widespread corruption at the top of football’s governing body with accusations of rigged World Cup voting and bribes offered for FIFA elections at a regional and global level.
This latest move is part of FIFA’s attempt to retain the ‘victim status’ afforded it by the US Department of Justice, helping to paint a picture that it was innocent of any crimes as opposed to being the perpetrator.
The papers also contain references to the damage caused to FIFA’s brand by the defendants’ greed, and with their executive committee set to release financial results which show a loss in excess of $100 million, this is further evidence of their quest to repair their shattered image.
Infantino has pledged to take FIFA forward into a new era of transparency and he will hope these latest developments are proof his organisation is turning over a new leaf.