The recent scandal concerning gift bags containing watches valued at £16,000 given to 32 association chiefs, 28 FIFA executive committee members and 5 other members of South American associations illustrates how far removed these bodies are from the real world.
The Ethics Code of FIFA Item 20 declares that:
Persons bound by this Code may only offer or accept gifts or other benefits to and from persons within or outside FIFA, or in conjunction with intermediaries or related parties as defined in this Code, which : i. have symbolic or trivial value.
Why then was Greg Dyke so surprised at the furore saying that he shouldn’t have to resign after receiving a watch “when you have no idea of the value”. Also saying that he didn’t realise what was in the goodie bag and then further saying that he had received ‘about’ 6 watches since he took over at the FA. He is now saying that he thinks the FA should lead the way in changing this culture – he doesn’t inspire much confidence is this cynical old soul.
On the other hand Michel Platini is apparently refusing to return his watch – despite the FIFA request – but does say that he will give the equivalent value to charity. Once again Mr. Platini sees this matter as something stirred up the British press. He says: “I’m an educated man, I don’t return gifts” and “it’s a gift, it’s not actually the watch I’m wearing today it’s a gift”. He obviously sees the return of this item to be a slight and he’s obviously never read the Ethics Code or been able to say “thank you for this lovely gift but I am not permitted to accept it”.
All this came to light on the eve of the inaugural World Summit on Ethics In Sport being staged at FIFA’s headquarters in the hills above Zurich. Sepp Blatter made no reference to these events during his address and his team of press officers shielded him from the press afterwards.
In a delightful irony FIFA has revealed that it spent around £87,000 on 750 watches to give to delegates of the national associations who travelled to Sao Paulo for its annual congress in June. FIFA say the value of these watches – around £117 – is within the provisions of its Code of Ethics.
It would be interesting to know how many of the 65 watches handed out in Brazil will be returned and what FIFA will do about the ones they don’t get back.
Even more damaging is the suggestion that FIFA do not intend to publish the findings of investigator Michael Garcia’s probe into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. In a speech at the summit the US attorney said he felt “greater transparency” over evidence of wrong doing was needed if FIFA’s rules were to have the desired effect and provide a proper deterrent. The man must feel he is wading through mud if he is trying to achieve change.
To an outsider it may appear that our beloved sport is governed by a morally bankrupt bunch of fat cats.