The credibility of both the FIFA reform programme and the new ethics system has been thrown back into question after the release and publication of the ISL file – containing the expected confirmations of vast sums taken in bribes over a decade by Joao Havelange and Ricardo Teixeira.
Next week FIFA’s executive committee will meet to confirm the names of the heads of the two-chamber operation.
They should not take up those posts – as investigator and judge – if they are not to be allowed to pursue both men retrospectively.
One year ago FIFA’s ethics commission dropped a disciplinary investigation into Jack Warner because the former CONCACAF president and FIFA vice-president walked away from all his football roles. That was bad enough. FIFA, surely, dare not turn the same blind eye to the personal enrichment of Havelange and Teixeira.
Indeed, the narrative of the case clarifies a belief of prosecutors that Havelange and Teixeira, holding positions in a Swiss-based organisation, had broken the laws of the land. The ‘crime’ was not – under laws at that time – the receipt of the money but the deception of FIFA itself by men in appointed positions of trust.
Similarly, the position, power, status and credibility of Sepp Blatter as current president of FIFA has been called into further question. The Swiss Federal Court has indicated that others within FIFA knew about the scam involving the Brazilian pair. This clearly impugns the credibility of Blatter who was general secretary then chief executive during the two decades when ISL controlled all of FIFA’s commercial activities.
Is it proper for him to continue to preside over not only FIFA but the reform process?
For almost two decades ISL, founded originally in 1982 by the late Adidas heir Horst Dassler, was all-powerful marketing partner of both world football federation FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.
After its $300m bankruptcy in 2001 reliable reports emerged of payments to senior sports – and particularly football – directors in exchange for influence over competition for World Cup television rights. Court evidence revealed illicit payments to Nicolas Leoz, then and now president of the South American football confederation. But the $700,000 he received was as nothing compared with the Brazilians’ rake-off.
Eventually, FIFA paid around $2.5m back into the court in Zug, where ISL has been based, in return for having the documentation sealed along with an undertaken that no further legal action would follow.
However media pressure for the release of the file was maintained, among others, by the business newspaper Handelszeitung and the BBC. Opening up the ISL file was endorsed as an essential step by the governance expert Mark Pieth when he was commissioned last year by FIFA to oversee its structural reform.
Havelange and Teixeira – until earlier this year president of both the Brazilian football confederation and the country’s 2014 World Cup organising authority – fought all the way through the Swiss legal system to prevent the release of the file.
The fact that they were two of the supposedly anonymous parties involved in the case was widely accepted and reported.
They could not stem the leaks.
Last year the IOC sanctioned two of its members – African football president Issa Hayatou and world athletics leader Lamine Diack – for having accepted funds from ISL. Havelange escaped IOC justice only by resigning his 48-year membership shortly before an ethics committee hearing.
Initially FIFA was a party to the attempts by Havelange and Teixeira to keep the file sealed. This emerged, laughably, last autumn when Blatter – simultaneously – was insisted he wanted the file opened. Subsequently FIFA withdrew its oppostion.
That meant the writing was on the wall, for Teixeira in particular, because he was still still then a FIFA exco member and held all the reins of power within Brazilian football. He was also, as was noted, a long-time close friend of people in other powerful places – such as FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valke and Barcelona president Sandro Rosell.
Early this year Teixeira, using health grounds to cover his exit, quit all his football roles (in a Warner-esque manner) and ran off with his family to Miami where he now lives in, no doubt, ISL-assisted luxury.
A further appeal to release the ISL file was lodged with the Swiss supreme court in March. The judgment was delivered on July 3 and issued in written form yesterday (July 11). Within minutes the ISL file was made available to media in particular and the public in general.
It shows a complex web of payments to a wide-ranging number of client accounts but, in particular, to the Brazilian duo. Teixeira is shown to have received the present-day equivalent of $13m between 1992-97 while Havelange received a payment of 1.5 million Swiss francs in 1997 (then around $1m).
Payments attributed to accounts connected to the two Brazilians totalled almost 22m Swiss francs (now $14m) between 1992 and 2000.
These monies belong, properly, to ISL’s creditors and, even this late in the day, FIFA should seek to salve corporate conscience by pursuing it on their behalf.
That, surely, is the least Blatter’s FIFA can deliver.