By Kieran Lovelock
The great Liverpool manager Bill Shankley once said: “football isn’t a matter of life and death- it’s much more important than that.”
Despite the intense level of emotion soccer holds with the majority of the global population thankfully this phrase hasn’t lived up to its literal meaning too often. However, upon watching events unfold in Zurich recently one must begin to ask how and why the game of soccer as a whole has reached such a point where governments would be willing to compromise some of their most hardcore democratic principles simply to have the World Cup staged in their country.
For it was revealed by the BBC recently that for a nation to host the tournament they must sign a contract allowing FIFA to forgo any taxation on profits made throughout the tournament, effectively putting them above the law. Shouldn’t this fact alone set alarm bells ringing as to why anyone would ever want to bid for the right to host the World Cup?
Isn’t democracy and equality more important than the great game soccer?
First of all let us state that there is no doubt that FIFA are corrupt and the way in which they are not held accountable to anyone in completely wrong, but the real question is why are they able to get away with it and carry on operating as a profitable organization?
You would have thought that nations such as England, France, Germany, Spain and the USA would have detached themselves from FIFA by now as a matter of principle and in a stand for their own people – but they have not.
Could you imagine the governing body of any other sport or any other industry being able to demand such outrageous terms and, worse still, getting them accepted by some of the most educated and erudite people in the world such as David Cameron and Barack Obama?
The game of rugby or cricket wouldn’t get the same treatment in England and the game of basketball or baseball wouldn’t get the same treatment in the USA, so therefore why does the game of soccer get it everywhere else?
Bearing this in mind, is it conceivably possible that the reason FIFA can act like they do all originates subconsciously from us, the fans? Could it be that soccer is now ingrained so deeply into people’s psyche that nobody who is remotely involved in the game can think ethically and rationally in the pursuit for victory?
One friend seriously told me last week that he wouldn’t care if the English FA illegally paid FIFA officials for votes; he just wanted to see the World Cup in England at any cost.
So if the English taxpayers for example are so desperate to see the World Cup hosted in their country that they would unnecessarily pay millions for it out of their back pocket, from a neutral business perspective can FIFA be blamed for extracting every penny they can? Although FIFA is undoubtedly one of the most corrupt organizations on the planet and they should be investigated from top to bottom, in a horrible way they must receive some credit for being able to get themselves in to the position that they are in.
I once heard a crime historian put a credible theory together claiming that during the great depression gangsters were able to gain power through subtlety exploiting the American people’s passion for freedom and self dependence. Evil crime lords such as Al Capone were able to attract followers through offering easy ways to make money (in a time where there were no jobs) and were wrongly seen as heroes by thousands for being able to help fulfill their needs, where the truth was of course that all they were doing was praying on the public’s passion in a corrupt manner, and then earning fortunes from it.
In many ways the FIFA executive committee is now that evil and manipulative gang. For the entire global population knows they’re bent, yet FIFA are able to get away with it due to the crucial service they provide to billions of people.
The world cannot do without soccer for it means too much to too many people and always will do. Soccer acts as the global language and the best compliment anyone can ever pay the game is that it is something that people from all cultures and all backgrounds share an undoubted passion for.
What in turn has happened is that the men with power at the top of the game have realized this fact and have shamelessly exploited it for everything it is worth simply to line their own pockets, in turn creating a monstrous organization that nobody from the heads of the G20 downwards can do anything about.
And when all is said and done despite all the bribery, all the bungs, all the lies, all the wasted money and all the wasted endeavor of the past 12 months by honest campaigners- this is the worst crime of all.