Why are many of the sports so badly governed? In India, there is no end of complaints from players and spectators about the bad and often illegal behaviour of the people in charge of administration of sports. Those in charge get elected in small exclusive coteries with neither players or spectators allowed to vote. They are answerable to no one. No wonder the Supreme Court had to intervene in the affairs of the IPL.
The latest scam is, of course, the re-election for the fourth time of Sepp Blatter as president of FIFA and his sudden resignation. There had been a lot of complaints about the way the World Cup locations for 2018 Russia and 2022 Qatar had been chosen. The investigative journalism of some British newspapers was commendable. But then England was also bidding and lost. Sour grapes, people said. ‘All this talk of corruption is just because the Europeans no longer rule football like they used to.’ ‘African and Asian countries are the majority. They loved Sepp Blatter.’ ‘Europeans were just being imperialists. They did not understand the way of doing business in Asia and Africa.’ ‘They were just imposing their own standards.’
FIFA had commissioned a report on the allegations of corruption but did not publish it. There had been rumours that Qatar and Russia had bribed the members of FIFA to secure the World Cup. Nothing fazed Blatter. He stood for the fifth time as president. One by one his rivals began to drop out till only the Jordanian prince remained as his rival. Then as if by miracle, the authorities in Switzerland where FIFA is located acted on a tip-off from the FBI and arrested 10 FIFA officials. Still Blatter insisted he was innocent. His friends came to his aid. Europeans were derided for going on about corruption.
Blatter got elected . Europeans had lost and did not know what to do next. Then FBI moved a bit closer to Blatter himself. This was a signal that the game was up. He resigned. There will have to be new elections and perhaps reconsideration of the locations for 2018 and 2022. We may begin to see the cleansing of FIFA.
The remarkable thing about this episode is that it illustrates the contradictions of globalisation beautifully. When England won the World Cup in 1966, football was largely a European and Latin American game. Most players in football clubs were local born and spectators also local, watching their weekly games in cold and uncomfortable stadiums. By 2014, when the World Cup was staged in Brazil, all had changed. European football teams had become multi-racial and multi-national. Television had multiplied the audience and brought lots of money to the game. Players commanded huge incomes and even more fabulous transfer fees. Neither colour nor nationality mattered. If you had talent enough to play at the top, the world was your oyster.
But when corruption proliferated, the cure also had to be global. Europeans complained about their beautiful game being ruined by the newcomers in FIFA but it was not they but the new kid on the block, the US, which moved to arrest the likely culprits. But then the dollar is a global currency for all transactions. Large bribes were being paid by cheques. (In India they know better and use the Gandhi notes.) These cheques passed through one or the other banks which did business in the US and around the globe. The globalisation of football and of finance set up the trap. There was one diligent nation which takes fraud seriously. The Americans tipped off the Swiss about the FIFA meeting as a good time to nab the suspects.
The point has to be made that there can be no separate morality for the First World and the rest. Those who defended corruption by attacking European Imperialism were just defending elite rent seeking. Their citizens did not benefit nor did the spectators. No country treats corruption as legal. The elite get away with it if the democratic pressures from the Press and the civil society are weak. But global policing helps protect the interest of the weak against the powerful local elites. Globalisation zindabad!