Law & Policy: Governing Bodies
Seven FIFA Officials Arrested on Corruption Charges
by Laura Godlewski May 2015
The rumors of corruption plaguing FIFA have finally come to a head following the arrest of seven top soccer officials on Wednesday at a hotel in Switzerland. The seven officials will be extradited to the United States on federal corruption charges alleging widespread corruption spanning two decades -- including bids for World Cups and marketing and broadcast deals -- throughout the organization. The charges, part of a 47-count indictment unsealed Wednesday morning in New York, include racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering. Sports-marketing executives from the United States and South America were also named in the indictment, accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in order to receive media deals during major soccer tournaments.
“Today’s announcement should send a message that enough is enough,” acting U.S. attorney Kelly T. Currie said in a statement. “After decades of what the indictment alleges to be brazen corruption, organized international soccer needs a new start – a new chance for its governing institutions to provide honest oversight and support of a sport that is beloved across the world, increasingly so here in the United States. Let me be clear: this indictment is not the final chapter in our investigation.”
Hours after the arrests were made, Swiss officials announced that they had opened criminal cases related to the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. According to Swiss officials, “electronic data and documents were seized today at FIFA’s head office in Zurich.”
The seven arrested are connected with regional confederations of North and South America and face up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted of the charges. In total, the indictment charges nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives, six of whom have already entered guilty pleas.
According to the United States Justice Department, the corruption is linked to World Cup qualifying matches, as well as the Copa America, the continental championship of South America. U.S. authorities suspect that the arrested officials received or paid bribes totaling millions of dollars and that the bribes were agreed to and prepared in the U.S., and payments were carried out through U.S. banks.
“When leaders in an organization resort to cheating the very members that they are supposed to represent, they must be held accountable,” said Richard Weber, chief of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. “Corruption, tax evasion and money laundering are certainly not the cornerstones of any successful business. Whether you call it soccer or football, the fans, players and sponsors around the world who love this game should not have to worry about officials corrupting their sport. This case isn't about soccer, it is about fairness and following the law. IRS-CI will continue to investigate financial crimes and follow the money wherever it may lead around the world, leveling the playing field for those who obey the law.”
In addition to the search of FIFA’s headquarters by Swiss officials, United States officials executed search warrants at CONCACAF headquarters in Miami Beach. CONCACAF is the North American regional body and reported itself in 2012 to U.S. tax authorities. CONCACAF’s former president left the soccer world in 2011 to avoid FIFA sanctions as a result of a bribery scandal associated with the election for the FIFA presidential position of that year. The former secretary general of CONCACAF left the organization in 2013 and pleaded guilty to charges.
Current FIFA president Sepp Blatter was not arrested or indicted and is expected to remain president of the organization.
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Satellite Camps, Grad Transfer Rules Irk SEC Coaches
by David Paschall May 2015
The Southeastern Conference suddenly has gone from dominant to disadvantaged in college football, and league coaches aren't taking that well. SEC coaches had their say Tuesday afternoon as the conference's spring meetings kicked off in Destin, Fla.
Big Ten ADs Try to Spark Debate on Freshman Reform
by Bob Hunter, The Columbus Dispatch May 2015
Conference commissioner Jim Delany and several athletic directors admitted that Delaney's widely reported idea to make freshman ineligible accomplished what he intended by merely starting a discussion on ways to reform college athletics.
Legal Settlement Allows Private Schools to Join VHSL
by Robert Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org 981-3123 May 2015
The Virginia High School League has opened the door for the state's private schools to become members of the VHSL, and Liberty Christian Academy is coming inside.
Athletes-as-Employees Model Would Alter ND Approach
by Paul Steinbach May 2015
The University of Notre Dame is the latest school to express that it would withdraw from the current setup of big-time college sports in the event student-athletes are deemed to be employees, according to athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who appeared as a panelist at a Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Sports meeting Tuesday.
"Notre Dame's just not prepared to participate in any model where the athlete isn't a student first and foremost — that's the hallmark for us," Swarbrick told USA TODAY Sports. "If the entire model were to move toward athletes as employees, we'd head in a different direction. Our president has been clear about that. I'm not articulating a unique position."
It's one that's not unique to Notre Dame, either. Northwestern University president emeritus Henry Beinen, a Knight Commission member, expressed a hope that Northwestern athletics would likewise seek a different approach to athletics, if the National Labor Relations Board concludes that an employer-employee relationship exists. The NLRB is deliberating the March 2014 ruling of regional director Peter Sung Ohr that Northwestern's scholarship football players are employees of the university, a ruling that included an order that Northwestern players vote on whether or not to unionize.
"If we wound up with a business where you wound up paying the players to play, I think alumni would have a different view [of college sports]," Beinen said. "I think the faculty would be unaccepting of it, at least at universities like Northwestern and Stanford and maybe Notre Dame, Rice, Duke. … We haven't gotten there by a long shot. Will we? I don't know. I hope not."
After appearing at a Congressional hearing on the Northwestern unionization effort last May, Stanford University athletic director Bernard Muir told USA Today Sports, "If [Stanford's athletes] are deemed employees, we will opt for a different model."
Speaking at Tuesday's meeting, NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon reiterated the associations long-standing position that student-athletes are amateurs. “Amateur status, as defined by being college eligible, is compromised when they use their athletic skill for pay,” Lennon said. “The introduction of pay may lead some — not all, but some — to not take full advantage of these educational opportunities that are available to them in their college years.”
Graduate Transfers Emerge as Big 12's Hot-Button Topic
by Dave Hickman, Charleston Gazette (West Virginia) May 2015
Bob Bowlsby and the rest of the Big 12 hierarchy came to its collective senses last week in doing an about-face on the notion of staging a championship football game. One has to believe that public opinion - or call it logic or sensibility if you will - played a role. Hopefully a similar push will force Bowlsby to reverse course on another hot-button topic, that of graduate transfers.
NJSIAA to Discuss Non-Public Football Conference
by Phil Anastasia; Inquirer Staff Writer May 2015
Several South Jersey non-public officials are skeptical of a controversial proposal to create a state-wide, non-public football conference.
FIFA Passed on Scotts $6M World Cup Grass Offer
by Laken Litman, USA TODAY Sports May 2015
One of the biggest story lines leading up to this summer's Women's World Cup in Canada is that every game will be played on synthetic turf rather than grass.
ACC to Discuss TV Network, Early Signing Period
by Matt Porter Palm Beach Post Staff Writer May 2015
The Atlantic Coast Conference's power brokers will meet to discuss a variety of conference issues. Here are five big-picture topics sure to be discussed between rounds of golf:
NJSIAA Committee OKs Non-Public Football Conference
by Phil Anastasia; Inquirer Staff Writer May 2015
Despite opposition from three South Jersey public-school officials, a controversial proposal to create a non-public football conference sailed through the NJSIAA's executive committee on Wednesday.