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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman and this is The World. Watching the FIFA story unfold is kind of like watching a tall tower teetering and starting to fall. The US corruption investigation into world soccer’s governing body has shaken FIFA deeply, and its embattled leader, Sepp Blatter, has announced he’s stepping down. But the entrenched FIFA bureaucracy, many say it’s riddled with corruption, that’s still there. So, how do you start reforming? Jens Sejer Andersen is watching the FIFA scandal from Copenhagen. He’s with the Danish Institute for Sports Studies and runs a program call Play the Game, which aims to promote better governance in sports organizations. Jens, did you ever, in your wildest imagination, think you’d see the world’s most powerful sports organization in such disarray?
Jens Sejer Andersen: Yes, I must admit I have seen that, but I have also regarded as a very wide imagination. But the tower you described has been crumbling for decades, actually. Corruption is inherent. How can you actually reform a system that is based on opaque transfers of huge sums of money, services to friends, privileges without merit? These are some of the challenges FIFA must solve, and the new president must solve.
Werman: Right, well the money is the critical question, because the trouble with FIFA pretty much universally recognized is that massive flow of money: $5 billion of revenue every four years mostly from the World Cup. Just a tantalizing amount. How do you manage that money more transparently and more responsibly?
Andersen: First of all, you have to revise the governance of the organization. When these associations become multi-billion dollar industries in the global entertainment sector, the temptations start, and corruption starts to thrive. They become greenhouses of corruption.
Werman: Yeah, so what is the answer then? Don’t you need an independent body ultimately to manage the money?
Andersen: You have to introduce term limits for elected officials, you have to have full transparency of financial transactions, you have to have a more solid democratic way of working, and like FIFA’s own reform committee has suggested, independent people to oversee the executive board--keep an eye on it. But that’s not enough. FIFA, in the present situation, must also change a number of persons: Blatter is surrounded by a number of yes men who have enjoyed incredible privileges for almost a generation, and they must simply give way to a new generation that is not used to the same level of privileges as the old ones were.
Werman: I mean, the fact that Sepp Blatter was all primed for another term as president of FIFA, what does that tell us about just the sheer power vested in that one position, and doesn’t that also need to change?
Andersen: It tells us that the one nation, one vote system is a system that has some built-in dangers.
Werman: In other words, one nation, one vote--they cast votes for the president of FIFA.
Andersen: Yeah, it sounds fair that every nation has a vote. But think it over: is the nation really the most important component of sports democracy? Or is it the athlete? If the athletes count, then it is hugely unfair that very small nations that have very, very little participation in a given sport--let’s say, for instance, team handball or another--if they have a few hundred participants, and they have one international vote, and then you go to Germany or another big country, the US, where you have tens of thousands of these athletes and they also only have one vote. This means the relative influence is very, very small and this is one of the problems. Nations that do not have a true asset in a given sport have much too much influence. So, we have to find a system that entitles the small nations to influence but also in a balanced way.
Werman: So, the women’s World Cup starts this weekend in Canada. The players are already upset that they can’t get grass fields like the men; the women are going to play on turf. And now this scandal. Do you think all of this has tainted that tournament?
Andersen: Yes, definitely. It taints everything that happens in football. And I think it can have a very positive effect, because now it is evident for everybody that FIFA must be reformed, that football’s political system is really flawed.
Werman: How do you think things are going to go now? Are you hopeful that it can be cleaned up?
Andersen: I’m cautiously hopeful. It was a positive signal that Blatter shared the podium yesterday, in a very unsentimental press conference, by the way, with a man that FIFA congress has appointed to oversee the reform process in FIFA. And this man, the Swiss Italian, Domenico Scala--the whole political structure of FIFA should actually have an overhaul, he said. Now, Domenico Scala is not a dictator in FIFA, and he doesn’t even have a real political mandate. But let’s hope that a number of FIFA’s federation, who so far most of them supported Blatter, will understand that the privileges they enjoy today will disappear once and for all if we are just going to see another corrupt FIFA continue with another face to hide behind.
Werman: Jens Sejer Andersen directs the Danish Institute for Sports Studies. Thank you very much.
Andersen: You’re very welcome.